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February 22, 2011

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How to ease those menstrual pains

MANY women suffer from monthly menstrual disorders and pain. Some symptoms are linked to gynecological diseases that need to be treated properly. Mostly, the symptoms cannot be linked to any organs in Western medicine, they are just related to the monthly menstruation and must be endured.

The symptoms come in different forms like PMS (pre menstrual syndrome), lower back pain, tender breasts, headaches, belly pain and leg pain. There is often fatigue, nausea, diarrhea, constipation and dizziness.

In traditional Chinese medicine, a menstrual disorder mainly indicates an imbalance of the liver system. In TCM, the liver is the organ system that controls and stores the vital substance, xue (blood), and is responsible for its distribution and use. But also a deficiency in the kidney and spleen system can cause irregularities and discomfort during the menstruation. They are connected to the liver system and deliver important nutrition and energy to it.

To identify the root cause and select appropriate treatment, TCM practitioners examine different body conditions: excesses and deficiencies of the vital substances xue and qi (energy), yin (cold) and yang (hot) energy status, external or internal causes of disease and cold or heat character of a disease.

Causes of menstrual pain:

Yin excess

Patients with a yin excess have symptoms such as cramps and chills during the period, accompanied with passiveness. Warming the belly can relieve this pain quickly. Drink warm tea (ginger) and keep the body warm.

Yang excess

Heat uses up qi and hurts fluids, including blood. Heat also moves the blood and leads to extraordinary bleeding and heavy bleeding accompanied by serious pain. Constipation, restlessness and insomnia are other symptoms. In this case, avoid consumption of alcohol, red meat and spicy food.

Deficiency of xue and/or qi

In cases of deficiency in xue and/or qi, there is dull pain and lower back pain. The patient is pale, tired and sometimes depressed. Often she has muscle spasms. In this case treatment focuses on the kidney and spleen systems where essential energies are produced and sent to the liver. Patients need to eat regularly, exercise and control their emotions.

Congestion of phlegm

An excess of fluids leads to stagnation and disruption of the flow of xue and qi. The pain is less intense but the patient feels distention of the abdomen and breasts. Often menstrual flow is slow and includes tissue.

TCM recommends acupuncture to regulate liver energy and stimulate xue. Moxibustion (mugwort, cigar) can ease pain by leading heat into the cold uterus.

The most helpful treatments are herbal. Angelica is often prescribed for female illnesses and therefore called the "female ginseng." Angelica tonifies the reproductive system, relieves menstrual pain and reduces premenstrual pain. It is usually contained in a gynecological decoction prescribed by a TCM gynecologist.

(Doris Rathgeber is the founder of Body & Soul Medical Clinics.)

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