TCM Treatments for Different Dysmenorrhea Manifestations

A strong relationship exists between gynecology and TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine). TCM has a longstanding interest in gynecological conditions as evidenced by the reference of these types of conditions as early as 1500-1000BC during the Shang Dynasty. Nowadays, we see that TCM treatments in the field of gynecology are growing and a wide range of studies and research have been done on conditions such as infertility, female pelvic pain, dysmenorrhea, and symptoms associated with menopause. In this work, we will give a short introduction to TCM viscera (zang-fu) theory in gynecology and talk about done about research regarding a female pelvic pain condition known as vulvodynia and dysmenorrhea.

TCM zang-fu theory

The theory of TCM zang-fu concerns itself on the relationship of the disease to the organs and its causes. The main organs affected in gynecology, are the heart, kidney, and uterus. Not deemed a main zang-fu organ In TCM, the uterus is instead considered as an extra organ and its function is to provide nourishment, act as an instrument for conception, and to store blood. The kidney and the heart are the main zang organs in gynecology. The kidneys are the underlying organs that govern reproduction while the heart is the commander of blood. The kidneys reside in the region where most of the body’s energy is stored, in the lower dan tian. The kidneys are vital when it comes to the treatment of gynecologic conditions.

Other organs including the spleen and liver are involved when talking about gynecologic conditions, based on the principles of TCM. According to the theory of zang-fu, the relationship of the organs to one another combined with the function of the vital substances they govern (e.g.: jing, blood, qi) and the qi circulation through the meridians is essential in diagnosing specific gynecologic related condition. In the treatment of gynecologic condition, the most common acupoints used are the main meridians of the tai yin (lung), yang ming (stomach), tai yin (spleen), jue yin (liver) and the extraordinary meridians of the Chong mai (Penetrating), Ren main (Conception), and Du main (Governing) vessels.

Pelvic Pain Background According to Western Medicine

Pelvic pain can be caused by several possible conditions. Its symptoms include pain originating in the stomach, blood vessel disturbances, blockage, and inflammation. In women, pelvic can be caused by other conditions that result in referred pain in the pelvic region. A lot of pelvic pain disorders may be the result of urinary tract, musculoskeletal, and gastrointestinal, disorders which makes the pelvic pain very hard to diagnose. The two most common pain disorders of the female pelvis are vulvodynia and dysmenorrhea. They are usually chronic in nature and can be very hard to address.

Dysmenorrhea Background According to Western Medicine

Dysmenorrhea is felt as a cramping sensation in the lower stomach that may commence before or at the onset of menstrual bleeding. Its symptoms may be felt slowly lessening each day after the onset of the menstrual bleeding. Dysmenorrhea can come with symptoms that include diarrhea, nausea, headache, bloating, and fatigue. Adolescents are usually more prone to this condition than adults and it tends to lessen following pregnancy. Dysmenorrhea can be classified into two types: primary and secondary. When primary dysmenorrhea occurs the female has abnormally high levels of prostaglandin precursors that result in pain, heightened nerve sensitivity, and uterine contractions. Secondary dysmenorrhea is the result of endometriosis and other underlying pelvic pathology.

Western medicine treatment of dysmenorrhea is many and may involve the use of oral contraceptives, NSAIDS (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) such as naproxen and ibuprofen, and the application of heat in the painful areas of the body. Integrative, alternative and complementary therapies including magnesium, vitamins, minerals as well as acupuncture, yoga, and physical exercise have been known to be just as effective, if not much better, as Western medicine in the treatment of dysmenorrhea.

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How One Can Benefit From Acupuncture If She Has Dysmenorrhea Symptoms

Based on a number of studies, dysmenorrhea, a condition that can cause painful pre-menstrual cramping, can be significantly reduced with acupuncture.

Caused by an underlying pelvic condition (secondary dysmenorrhea), dysmenorrhea may also be brought about by a pathology of an unknown cause (primary dysmenorrhea). In the United States, about 25% of women suffer from either primary or secondary dysmenorrhea. This condition cannot be effectively treated by using NSAIDS or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or any pharmaceutical painkillers.

Practiced in China for thousands of years, acupuncture has long been used to treat premenstrual pain. However, experiments to observe and prove its efficacy have only been performed recently. One such experiment that was featured in 2010 in the Evidence-based Complimentary and Alternative Medicine journal tested acupuncture on women who had been experiencing moderate to severe dysmenorrhea for a minimum of one year. NSAID therapy had no effect on their pain. All these women refused oral contraceptive therapy, a treatment that is usually recommended by doctors for this type of condition.

The conductors of the study found 13 out of the 15 women who participated in the study had significant lessening of their pain; they also were able to cut down on their use of NSAIDs after being given acupuncture treatment. This study showed that in relieving pain brought about by primary dysmenorrhea acupuncture in Overland Park appeared to be the most effective treatment in the study.

One other study that was published in 2011 in the Chinese Journal of Integrative Medicine performed by scientists from the Shandong Academy of Chinese Medicine involved 80 participants who were all suffering from primary dysmenorrhea felt in three cycles of menstruation. No type of acupuncture treatment was ever given to these women before to help quell their dysmenorrhea. The scientists saw that preconditioning acupuncture treatment helped significantly lessen the duration and magnitude of their symptoms more so than immediate acupuncture or no acupuncture treatment at all.

Holistic Treatment

Acupuncture is an important component of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), a holistic type of healthcare whose philosophy sees the body as made up of interconnected systems that needs to be in balance to attain good health. Acupuncture is a natural form of treatment that has no side effects whatsoever in contrast to Western modes of treatments such as hormonal contraceptives that merely targets the symptoms (and not the underlying cause of the symptoms) and always carry adverse side effects.

Acupuncture traditionally involves the insertion of thin long needles into underlying body locations known as meridians. Acupuncture treatment is often combined with other TCM modalities like energy therapies such as Qi Gong, herbal therapy, and lifestyle and dietary changes.

Recently, acupuncture has become a very popular alternative treatment in Western countries due in part to the increasing number of research studies that proved its effectiveness. These studies have specifically demonstrated that this unique form of therapy is quite effective in treating most types of pain. Even more good news is that this treatment is now covered by a lot of private insurance plans and has even been endorsed as a legitimate form of treatment for various conditions by the U.S. military.

Being a scientifically supported treatment and endorsed by the National Institutes of Health for several types of conditions including pain and dysmenorrhea, acupuncture is a very safe and noninvasive type of treatment that is free of any side effects.