Symptoms of PMS

Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) symptoms can be literally in the hundreds. These symptoms can differ from person to person and can likewise change every month.

PMS symptoms typically erupt at usually the same time each month in a woman’s menstrual cycle. This can last up to a couple of weeks before her period commences. The symptoms typically get better once a woman’s period starts. They then disappear until the menstrual cycle begins again.

Common symptoms

As mentioned before, PMS symptoms can be in the hundreds. The most common symptoms of this condition can include:

Physical symptoms

  • Gain of weight of typically 1 kg
  • Nausea
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Insomnia
  • Breast tenderness
  • Joint and muscle pain
  • Backache
  • Hair and skin changes
  • Headaches
  • Discomfort and pain in the stomach
  • Feeling bloated and edema

Psychological symptoms

  • Deflated self-esteem
  • Restlessness
  • Forgetfulness and confusion
  • Concentration difficulties
  • Anxiety
  • Tearfulness and crying
  • Depression
  • Feeling angry or irritable
  • Mood swings

Behavioral symptoms

  • Food cravings or appetite changes
  • Loss of interest in sex or loss of libido

PMS can also lead to potential worsening of chronic (long-term) conditions like migraine or asthma.

Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder

Whereas a lot of women with PMS conditions may experience uncomfortable symptoms, a small number of women possess symptoms that are so severe that they disrupt their normal lives. They are suffering from a more severe type of PMS called premenstrual dysphoric disorder or PMDD.

PMDD symptoms may be a lot similar to those of PMS; however, they are more severe and usually come with more psychological symptoms compared to physical ones. PMDD symptoms can involve:

  • Severe irritability and tension
  • Very poor self-esteem
  • Either much less or much more sleeping
  • Lower interest in doing daily activities
  • Serious anxiety and anger
  • Persistent depression or sadness
  • Feeling of hopelessness

Since depression is a symptom usually seen in PMDD, some women with this condition have been known to have suicide ideations.

The symptoms of PMDD can be quite difficult to handle since they can be debilitating and can affect a woman’s relationship and everyday life. You need to consult with your doctor if you seem to be exhibiting serious signs of PMDD.

Nawei Jiang is a licensed acupuncturist and the founder of Nawei’s Acupuncture Clinic in Colorado Springs, CO.

PMS Treatment and Drugs

In spite of lifestyle changes and home remedies you still experience moderate to severe premenstrual symptoms of premenstrual syndrome, you then may need to talk to your doctor about utilizing medications.  A lot of PMS drugs affect the endocrine system and they function to either block or increase specific chemical reactions that can be causing PMS symptoms. No medicine has been yet created to cure premenstrual syndrome.

NSAIDS or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are the most widely used types of drugs for treating PMS symptoms especially for pain. SSRIs or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors are availed of in the treatment of mood-related symptoms.

Medication Choices

Pain relievers – These can include mefenamic acid, ibuprofen and Naproxen. They help relieve menstrual as well as premenstrual pain and at the same time minimize menstrual bleeding. NSAIDS can also help lessen inflammation caused by enhanced production of prostaglandin in the body during the premenstrual cycle. These medicines are best used prior to and maintained at regular dosage intervals for the entire premenstrual pain phase. This phase can go on into the initial days of menstrual bleeding and NSAIDS can help address any painful cramps that may be experienced during this phase. If you have regular cycles you can start taking an NSAID drug one to two days prior to the time you expect pain to begin.

SSRIs like citalopram, fluvoxamine, paroxetine or fluoxetine are used to treat physical and mood-related symptoms. An SSRI can help bring back balance to neurotransmitters which are brain chemicals. When balance is brought to these chemicals the emotional and physical symptoms of PMS start to become better. These medicines can be most effective when used exclusively during the premenstrual weeks or if they are used continuously.

Diuretic to treat weight gain and water retention – One example of a diuretic is the drug spironolactone. Spironolactone can help lessen breast tenderness and bloating when it is used during the premenstrual weeks. It works by preventing the body to use the aldosterone hormone.

Benzodiazepine for anxiety treatment – One type of Benzodiazepine is alprazolam. The use of this drug is usually restricted to a few days’ use and is often utilized if the aforementioned treatments have all been unproductive. Alprazolam depresses the central nervous system, becomes ineffective when used for extended periods of time and can be habit-forming as well. The prolonged use of this drug can result in life-threatening or withdrawal symptoms.

Hormonal treatments

Progestin/estrogen birth control pills are also commonly prescribed for symptoms of PMS. These pills, however, may not be able to relieve all PMS symptoms. They have been proven though to address breast tenderness, stomach pain, headache and bloating in some women. Some women, however, have complained of mood problems or worse symptoms after taking these pills. Birth control pills seem to be ineffective when addressing mood-related symptoms. If estrogen-only pills are taken by some women, they may provide some benefits although estrogen-only pills can heighten the risk of endometrial (uterine) cancer for these women.

Progestin (progesterone) has been utilized before for PMS symptoms but since they make the emotional and physical symptoms worse in some women it is not as prescribed anymore as it used to be.

Other hormone treatments

Danazol – This is man-made male hormone that can address breast pain by limiting the woman’s production of estrogen. This treatment is rarely used.

Gonadotropin-releasing hormone agonist (GnRH-a) – This treatment is often used a treatment of last-resort for PMDD symptoms that are severe. GnRH-a can effectively cease the hormonal menstrual cycle of each month and causes effects in the reproductive system similar to menopause.

Psychological therapy

If you are emotional or feel depressed because of your PMS, you can get help by talking to a health expert. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is actually a collection of therapies that have been created to resolve emotional problems like depression and anxiety. A cognitive behavioral therapist is trained to assist you in learning new methods of better managing your emotional symptoms of PMS.


Acupuncture is derived from traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) which sees the body fundamentally as one whole integrated system instead of a collation of distinct diseases and symptoms.  It considers problems like PMS as a result of the body’s disharmony and imbalance caused by the slow movement or non-movement of chi, which is considered the body’s energy.  One important organ in TCM is the liver which is viewed as the key organ in charge of the smooth flow of chi.  The liver also plays a role in the hormonal fluctuations in the endocrine system.

Exercise, relaxation and diet are things seen by TCM that make the liver healthy and helping it to free chi energy that has been blocked. It is not strange then to hear from an acupuncturist to prescribe acupuncture treatment along with lifestyle changes as part of a holistic approach.

Acupuncture for Women’s Health Conditions

Nowadays people are more and more becoming aware of acupuncture treatment as a form of natural and drug-free treatment for pain. Acupuncture not only is a perfect reliever for many types of pain, it treats the body by enabling the body to heal itself and not rely on any kind of medications. It also is effective in restoring balance to the female endocrine system and hormones. Acupuncture practitioners utilize methods that aim to balance the blood flow to the uterus, improve the balance of hormones, stimulate egg production (ideal for infertility), regulate the ovarian cycle, and provide treatment for a wide array of women’s health issues. These include:

  • Premenstrual syndrome (PMS)
  • Infertility
  • Endometriosis
  • Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
  • Uterine fibroids (benign tumors in the uterus caused by too much estrogen and can also be the cause of heavy bleeding)
  • Heavy or irregular periods – Especially effective during the perimenopausal phase

Some of the ways acupuncture can specifically address PMS symptoms include:

  • Lessening inflammation
  • Stimulating nerves situated in muscles and other tissues resulting in the production and release of endorphins and natural steroids
  • Improving relaxation and minimizing tension


Tree of Life Acupuncture
1215 120th Ave NE #206
Bellevue, WA 98005
(425) 732-3201


PMS Risk Factors

The bad news is that medical researchers and experts are still unsuccessful finding the exact cause of premenstrual syndrome. The good news, nevertheless, is that certain risk factors have been identified that have been connected with premenstrual syndrome. A lot of these risk factors entail specific certain lifestyle habits. Knowing what these risk factors are can aid women in substantially reducing or even eliminating their PMS symptoms.

Cultural Factors and Age Associated with Premenstrual Syndrome

Research regarding the perceptions of PMS among different cultural backgrounds has shown that Asian women often report of PMS symptoms that are painful compared to Western European women (including the US) who have, on the other hand, complained that the hardest part of their PMS symptoms is the feeling of depression.

Women of Hispanic lineage are the ones that often experience the most severe forms of PMS symptoms as opposed to Asian women who report of the least and fewest kinds of PMS symptoms. Caucasian females complain of diverse symptoms ranging from light to severe falling somewhere along the middle of all cultures.

Usually women start to experience premenstrual syndrome symptoms around their mid 20’s. Most, however only get treatment for their symptoms until they reach their mid 30’s. A few research studies have been done on adolescent girls regarding PMS. These research show that there are some adolescent girls who also have undergone PMS symptoms that are mild to moderate.

Other studies indicate the PMS tends to taper off when females reach the age of 35; however, around 6% of females around the ages of 35 to 44 instead tend to suffer from premenstrual dysphoric disorder or PMDD which is a more severe type of PMS.

Psychological and Lifestyle Factors

We all know stress is a contributing factor to a lot of human diseases and it therefore comes as no surprise that it is considered a risk factor for experiencing more severe forms of PMS and PMDD symptoms. Most medical experts recommend the elimination or at least reduction of stress around the around the premenstrual cycle to avoid severe PMS symptoms. Depression in women can make them susceptible in developing PMS or cause them to experience severe symptoms of PMS.

Women who lead stressful lives are significantly susceptible to experiencing symptoms of premenstrual syndrome. Women who also smoke or often consume alcohol are more at risk to experience more severe forms of PMS symptoms compared to women who don’t drink alcohol or smoke.  Women taking in large amounts of caffeine or sugar are also prime candidates for experiencing the more severe symptoms of PMS.

Studies have also indicated that PMS will likely be experienced by women whose biological mother has had premenstrual syndrome. Also a woman who had multiple pregnancies has also an increased likelihood of experiencing more severe forms of PMS symptoms.
Christina Prieto is an Orlando acupuncturist, a certified Yoga instructor and the founder of Harmony Wellness center in central Florida.

PMS – Preparing for Your Appointment

If you come in for a consultation with your doctor he will likely refer you to a health professional that specializes in the conditions of the female reproductive system (a gynecologist).

Listed below are some advices to best prepare you for your appointment and the things you can expect from your doctor.

  • Think about important questions to ask your doctor and write them down. You can write down your questions on a small notebook and bring it along with you on the day of your appointment. Likewise bring a pen and a notebook with you to record the important information the doctor may dish out during your appointment.
  • Jot down all your important health information including the supplements, vitamin, herbs and even steroids you are currently taking. Also include in your note a list of important medical information including a list of other health issues you are presently being treated for and the names of the supplements, vitamins and medications you are taking for that condition.
  • Write also on your note the symptoms you have experienced that may or may not be related to the reason you are seeing your doctor for.
  • Remember and follow the pre appointment restrictions (if any) your doctor will require of you. Call the doctor’s office if there is anything you need to do beforehand to help you prepare the appointment.

To assist you in preparing questions to ask your doctor concerning your condition, here are some of examples of questions you can ask during your appointment:

  • What steps do I need to take to relieve my symptoms?
  • Are my symptoms going to eventually dissipate on their own?
  • Are my PMS symptoms indicative of a far more serious condition?
  • Are there treatments for my PMS symptoms? If yes, what are they?
  • Do the medicines you are prescribing have generic alternatives?
  • Can I take home reading materials and brochures regarding PMS? Do you know any websites that I can go to understand more about my problem?

All your other questions might not be included in the question’s list above but you nevertheless have to ask all of them during the appointment.

Your doctor will also have questions of his own to ask you regarding your condition. Some of his questions may force you to ponder for their answers. Take your time in answering them. Providing true and accurate information to your doctor will enable him to come up with an accurate diagnosis and a proper medical treatment.

Some of his questions may be like these:

  • Do you experience light, moderate or severe symptoms?
  • When exactly during your menstrual cycle do you experience the worst symptoms?
  • Do you have days/moments in your menstrual cycle that are without symptoms?
  • Are you able to know when your symptoms are about to occur?
  • Is there anything that makes the symptoms worse?
  • Is there anything that makes your symptoms better?
  • Are your daily normal activities affected by your symptoms?
  • Have you been depressed, down or have felt hopeless recently?
  • Does your family have a history of psychiatric problems?
  • Have you tried treatments for your condition? If yes, what treatments are they? Have they been effective for you?


Scott Paglia is a licensed and board certified acupuncturist in Bellingham, WA and provides master level pulse diagnosis, Chinese herbal medicine and acupuncture in Whatcom County, WA.