What is PMS ?
Premenstrual syndrome, or PMS, is a group of symptoms that can occur any time after ovulation up to the beginning of the your menstrual period (actual blood flow).
Typical PMS symptoms include:
- Mood swings
- Breast distention and tenderness
- Cramping in lower abdomen or back
Symptoms can be mild, moderate or severe. In some cases the pain and emotional swings may be debilitating for patients, affecting their day- to-day activities for up to two weeks per month!
Most women will experience some form of PMS during their lifetime. I often here pms described as ‘normal’. I’ve come to learn is really meant is ‘typical’. It’s typical of what other women experience.
Here’s a surprise for you- in acupuncture theory, there is no normal/typical pms. Any PMS is abnormal and something that can be treated with acupuncture. The question is, how severe is your PMS and is it worth doing something about it?
Causes of PMS
There is no definitive cause of PMS but the hormonal fluctuations that occur during the menstrual cycle are considered as likely contributors. Each month a variety of hormones cascade through the Hypothalamus-Pituitary-Ovarian Axis.
These hormones dictate the timing and occurrence of the key events of the menstrual cycle including the growth and shedding of the endometrium (your menstrual period) and the growth and release of the egg at ovulation.
After ovulation is when problems with Premenstrual syndrome can begin. The transition from Estrogen (pre ovulation hormone) to Progesterone (post ovulation) is believed to be a contributing factor to PMS*.
* this explanation is way oversimplified to save space and keep you awake.
So when is treatment for pms necessary? Most of the western medical websites will indicate that treatment is not necessary in most women with pms. Regardless of the severity of your symptoms, if your pms troubles you each month and impacts your quality of life for 1-2 weeks a month, I would say treatment is warranted.
Unfortunately there is not much out there in terms of definitive treatments to help with PMS. Many treatments are pill based- aspirin, ibuprofren, anti-depressants, and nutritional/vitamin supplements.
Many women are put on the birth control pill when younger as soon as they experience pms. The birth control pill blocks ovulation and stabilizes the hormonal swings by giving low doses of estrogen and progesterone. While this may work in the short term to address symptoms, it does not fix the problem. Patients do not experience a true cycle when on the pill, and once they stop the pill they may still have issues with PMS.
Acupuncture and PMS
Acupuncture stimulates the body’s self-healing abilities in order to help the body return to a state of balance and good health. In the treatment of PMS, or any menstrual disorder, acupuncture aims to correct the underlying hormonal imbalance that leads to the symptoms of pms arising in the first place.
In order to do this, your acupuncturist will investigate the history of your menstrual cycle. Within each month, there are four distinct phases of the menstrual cycle:
Phase 1 is the actual period—the menstrual flow.
Phase 2 – Post Menstrual –the time frame from when bleeding stops to Ovulation
Phase 3- Ovulation
Phase 4- Pre-Menstrual- approximately 1 week prior to the cycle starting.
Acupuncture is unique in that treatment of the cycle will vary depending upon which phase you are in. Different hormones guide each phase, so treatment is adjusted accordingly. Although PMS typically occurs during Phase 4, it does not mean the cause of your problem is in Phase 4. It is the acupuncturist’s job to identify the main cause of your issue and correct it.
Acupuncture helps in three main ways
- Acupuncture has been shown to influence the Hypothalamus-Pituitary-Ovarian (HPO) axis, which is the pathway responsible for the cascade of hormones that control the menstrual cycle.
- Acupuncture works by improving blood flow to the uterus – helping to fully discharge the endometrium during the period and then replenish the endometrium after the bleeding stops. By improving blood flow, acupuncture is also able to reduce inflammation and pain.
- Acupuncture also helps calm the emotions. Acupuncture treatment triggers the release of endorphins that help you feel relaxed and calm. Over time, your body is able to adapt to stress more easily.
Not only can acupuncture help with PMS, it can treat any disorder of the menstrual cycle including: short or long cycles, irregular cycles, no cycles (amenorrhea) or painful periods (dysmenorrhea).
You do not need to hopelessly suffer with Premenstrual syndrome. Call for a free consultation and find out if acupuncture can help you.