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From a Western medicine perspective, the menstrual cramping is caused by high levels of prostaglandin hormones produced by the uterus triggering abnormal muscle contractions that cut off blood flow in areas of the uterus. The condition is categorized into the following two types:
Contraceptive pills are the standard treatment for hormonal imbalances that are accompanied by irregular periods. If no specific condition is diagnosed as the cause of the dysmenorrhea, then analgesics are usually prescribed.
In Chinese Medicine, there are two main approaches to gynecological conditions. There is the more common "organ energetics" approach espoused by the more recent development in Chinese medicine called TCM or "Traditional Chinese Medicine." And there is the "channel energetics" approach emphasized by CCM or Classical Chinese Medicine. Although developed more recently (that is, in China during the 1950s), TCM does not represent an advancement but a very simplified, abbreviated version of what Chinese medicine was before Mao came into power. After their assent to power the China faced a healthcare crisis with not enough practitioners to treat the vast population. So what was traditionally ten years of apprenticeship training was truncated down to three years of class room instruction with less than half of the energetics of the body being taught.
As suggested above, the energetics of the body is made up of the twelve organ energetics and over seventy channels that have their own unique energetics. TCM practitioners have learned organ energetics and just fourteen channels; that is, the twelve organs' energetics and regular channels associated with those twelve organs plus two other channels, Ren and Du. CCM practitioners have learned organ energetics and the over-seventy energy channels recognized by Chinese medicine. Basically, TCM says that patient signs and symptoms are caused by imbalances in organ energetics and need to be corrected by rebalancing organ energetics. CCM recognizes imbalances in organ energetics and those imbalances that arise in channel energetics as well.
So what? Why bring up these differences? First, there are very important differences in these approaches beyond what has been already stated. And, although I will be approaching dysmenorrhea from a TCM perspective (because it is much more likely to be encountered by readers) for the remainder of this article, I bring up CCM in order to just hint at the breadth of Chinese medicine so that the reader does not come to the conclusion that TCM is Chinese medicine.
From a TCM perspective, a healthy period requires adequate blood volume and flow, assisted by qi or subtle energy. Liver, Spleen, Kidney organ and Chong channel energetics are involved in a woman's period. For instance, Liver qi assists in the normal flow of blood and qi. If Liver qi stagnates from emotional stress, then blood cannot move adequately enough, usually causing pain a day or two before the period. If Liver-blood stagnates, then there will be pain during the period.
Basically, TCM-style of Chinese acupuncture works to get blood and qi moving smoothly with the treatment of the Liver channel as its main focus as the Liver channel's pathway passes through the genitalia and reproductive organs. If a woman is what Chinese medicine calls "blood deficient," acupuncture can assist in the conversion of other body resources to form new blood. This is important because blood deficiency means that there is not enough blood for the blood to flow smoothly and evenly, causing dull or sharp pain.
Chinese medicine does not treat Western medicine conditions--including "dysmenorrhea." Instead the Chinese medicine practitioner takes a naturalistic approach by organizing patient signs and symptoms into basic patterns of imbalance, after conducting an extensive intake. Usually there are multiple patterns of imbalance involved in a patient's health presentation.
Common Patterns in TCM-Style of Chinese Medicine for Dysmenorrrhea
TCM-style acupuncture treatments usually include nutrition, other lifestyle modifications, and, perhaps, Chinese herbs.
If you are interested in finding out more about your symptoms and what acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine can do for you, contact us today.