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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