menstrual cramps

Acupuncture for PMS

By Mary Vincent, L.Ac.
    Most women experience at least some form of PMS (Premenstrual Syndrome) at some point in their lives. It is estimated that 3 out of 4 women experience symptoms of PMS with each menstrual cycle. This means that the majority of women are all too familiar with a variety of uncomfortable physical and emotional symptoms occurring before every single menstrual cycle we have. The symptoms of PMS typically take place in a predictable fashion, presenting at about the same time (7-10 days) before each menstrual cycle, and then disappearing with the onset of or shortly thereafter the onset of menstruation. Signs and symptoms can vary from month to month in intensity, and typically include a handful of the following emotional or physical presentations:

Mood swings (especially irritability and/or anger)
Depression and/or increased bouts of crying
Anxiety
Insomnia
Increased appetite and/or food cravings
Acne
Breast tenderness/pain
Fatigue
Headaches
Weight gain/bloating (usually due to water retention)
Diarrhea or constipation (sometime alternating)

    There is no clear understanding of what causes PMS to occur. Some of symptoms are thought to be caused by:

Cyclical hormonal changes–Changes in the balance of estrogen and progesterone lead to mood changes,     anxiety, and irritability. PMS symptoms disappear during pregnancy and with menopause.

Stress–Signs and symptoms are intensified during times of stress.

Poor nutrition–Inadequate levels of vitamins and minerals are thought to lead to some PMS symptoms. In addition, poor diets that include high intakes of sat contribute to water retention.

Cyclical changes in brain chemistry–a cyclical decrease in the neurotransmitter serotonin is thought to contribute to premenstrual depression, fatigue, and insomnia.

    If you are one that experiences PMS symptoms every single month (particularly if they are severe enough to negatively impact your [...]

Acupuncture and Menstrual Pain (Dysmenorrhea)

By Mary Vincent, L.Ac

We see a variety of complaints related to menstrual problems at BCA.

We see a variety of complaints related to menstrual problems here at BCA, but by far the most common (and one that almost every woman has experienced at some time in her life) is due to pain occurring before or during the period (otherwise known as dysmenorrhea). Pain severity ranges from mild to debilitating, and while it most often manifests as cramps affecting the lower abdomen, it can also present as pain or pressure in the lower back or hips, groin, and inner thighs. This pain can be dull, aching, sharp, and/or radiating, sometimes accompanied by nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea. In a study published in 2008 in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, a randomized controlled trial that included 201 women with dysmenorrhea showed that the women who received acupuncture had lower pain intensity and concluded that “Additional acupuncture in patients with dysmenorrhea was associated with improvements in pain and quality of life as compared to treatment with usual care alone and was cost-effective within usual thresholds.”

What Causes Dysmenorrhea?

During the menstrual cycle, the lining of the uterus (the endometrium) thickens to prepare for a possible pregnancy. If a fertilized egg does not implant into this lining, it will begin to break down in order to be passed out of the body in preparation for a new cycle. As the endometrium deteriorates, the cells release prostaglandins, a specific type of lipid (fat) molecule that can have a strong physical effect on smooth muscle tissues of the body. Specifically in the uterus, this can cause painful contractions as the lining is preparing to or being shed during menstruation.

Types of Dysmenorrhea

Primary Dysmenorrhea

Primary [...]