There is a good chance that if you are a person with a period, you have experienced pain associated with your menstrual cycle at some point. One study indicates that as many as 90% of women experience painful periods, and roughly 33% report pain so severe that it requires them to take pain relieving medication such as NSAIDs (non-steroid anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen, naproxen etc). Many women report pain that requires both medication AND absence from school, work, or other daily life obligations. Despite the fact that the majority of women experience some pain with their menstrual cycle, Western medicine offers few options for the treatment of these complaints. The two most common approaches to the treatment of painful periods are:
- The prescription of birth control to “regulate” your menstrual cycle
- The recommendation to take NSAID drugs such as ibuprofen when the symptoms cause discomfort.
Ok so what’s wrong with this picture? Well for starters we have a condition that seriously affects quality of life for up to 50% of women. Then we have treatment options that do NOTHING to address the underlying cause of the condition. These same treatments often produce both immediate side effects and long term consequences for your health. Another important fact is that up to 25% of the women who are prescribed these interventions do not experience improvement with them! Those are discouraging odds for women hoping to get relief from painful periods!
We’ll get more into the risks and side effects birth control, and NSAID drugs in the upcoming weeks, but I will offer this quick overview for now. The most commonly reported side effects of NSAID drugs are stomach pain and irritation, ulcers, headache, dizziness, and high blood pressure, with more serious side effects being risk of kidney and liver damage. It is now common knowledge that when used chronically NSAIDs are damaging to your digestive tract. Common side effects of oral contraceptives are things like mood swings, weight gain, breast tenderness, headaches, fatigue, and increased risk of blood clots, stroke, and many types of cancer.
One thing that is important to understand is that your menstrual cycle is a delicate balance of signals between your reproductive system, and your nervous system. There are MANY reasons why your period might be painful, heavy, irregular, or otherwise out of balance, and they all have a root cause.
Some of the root causes behind painful periods are:
- HORMONAL IMBALANCE-low progesterone, high estrogen or testosterone? these can all affect your cycle length, flow, pain level, mood, sleep, and more (more in next weeks blog post)
- DIGESTIVE IMBALANCE-did you know that your digestion plays a role in keeping your hormones balanced and healthy? If your digestion is not functioning optimally this is one thing that can contribute to the accumulation of excess estrogen in the body, also known as estrogen dominance.
- CHRONIC STRESS-our stress hormones are intimately connected to our reproductive hormones.
- LIVER HEALTH-your liver plays a key role in the activation and processing of many important hormones. If it’s not functioning optimally it makes it hard for your body to achieve optimal hormone balance.
- CHRONIC INFLAMMATION-period pain is often marked by higher than normal levels of inflammatory markers in the blood.
So where does Acupuncture come in?! Some studies have shown that acupuncture is as effective as NSAIDS, or birth control in the treatment of period pain. The BIG DIFFERENCE it is both EFFECTIVE, and produces NO WIDESPREAD SIDE EFFECTS.
Acupuncture has been shown to both reduce inflammation, and trigger your nervous system to release natural pain relieving compounds like serotonin, endorphins, and acetylcholine. When combined with herbal medicine, and lifestyle modification to address underlying causes of chronic stress, digestive disturbance, and hormone imbalance, you can achieve PAIN FREE periods for a lifetime.
Most women who come into my office have no idea WHY they have pain with their periods, or that there are options are available to them. Women deserve more than band-aid treatment options that simply mask their symptoms. When we work together to create a custom treatment plan these women achieve regular, pain free periods, improved quality of life, and a greater sense of empowerment over their body and health. Women deserve effective, natural solutions that preserve their health, fertility, and well being for a lifetime. Don’t you agree? If you’re ready to take the next steps to work on addressing the root cause of your painful periods, book a FREE initial consult with us here.