The condition wherein women who are not pregnant, breastfeeding or peri-menopausal and who do not experience any kind of menstrual bleeding at all is known as amenorrhea. Amenorrhea has two types: primary amenorrhea and secondary amenorrhea. When a female reaches 16 years of age but still fails to begin menstruating or her menstruation is delayed may be suffering from primary amenorrhea; when a woman experiences a sudden or abrupt stoppage of her menstruation lasting for more than three months, she is considered to be suffering from secondary amenorrhea. Acupuncture, oftentimes combined with Chinese herbal therapy and food therapy can easily bring back a woman’s normal menstrual cycle after just three months of treatment.
Another six months may be needed for the same natural treatments to normalize the menstrual cycle. Hormonal medications in reality are not designed to help regulate or bring back the woman’s menstrual cycle, as much as they cause side effects such as cancer, blood clots or weight gain.
For several types of conditions, traditional Chinese medicine considers them to be caused by syndromes or groups of symptoms. This syndrome is often classified into patterns involving the pathways of energy and/or the internal organs of the body. As TCM usually focuses in treating the root cause of the condition, the practitioner will treat you as a whole and resolve the symptoms pattern(s) caused by your illness. The TCM way of diagnosing a problem is to first identify the pathological changes of the body that is either seen as an excess or vacuous pattern.
Missing or absence of menstrual periods or secondary amenorrhea can come about due to different pathologies within the syndrome patterns (mentioned below) that can either in complex form or appear alone. The patient may manifest symptoms from all patterns or just one.
Blood and Qi vacuity- symptoms may include progressive stoppage of menstruation. Usually, menstruation becomes rarer and shorter and can stop altogether eventually. Other symptoms and signs may include brittle nails, dull hair, dry skin, dream-disturbed sleep, insomnia, breathlessness, sleeplessness, palpitations, loose stools, weakness of the limbs, headaches, bruising, weak vision, dizziness, weakness and fatigue, pale complexion and of course, absence of menstruation.
Liver and Kidney vacuity – there is progressive stoppage of the menstrual cycle. Menses become rare and thin that eventually cease altogether. Symptoms and signs include frequent urination, brittles nails, dull hair, profuse sweating especially at night, hot flashes, anxiety, tinnitus, headaches, dizziness, lower back pain, weakness and soreness in the legs and loins, fatigue, and no menstruation for a certain period of time.
Phlegm Dampness – missing or delayed periods become evident eventually leading to cessation of menstruation. This pattern may lead to excess weight since it causes habitual consumption of dairy products, greasy foods, raw foods, and cold foods. Symptoms and signs of this syndrome include general weakness, fatigue, edema, stomach bloating, phlegm in the throat, chest constriction, headaches, nausea, clear, sticky and excessive discharge in the vagina, obesity, and absence of menstruation.
Qi Stagnation – initially, irregular menstruation may be experienced followed by a sudden or gradual stoppage of the menstruation. This pattern is often caused by emotional stress. Symptoms and signs include frequent sighing, alternating constipation/diarrhea, appetite loss, headaches, breast tenderness, fullness or swelling of the stomach with an aversion to pressure, fullness sensation on the chest and below the rib cage, anxiety, depression, and no menstruation.
Blood Stasis – initially, irregular menstruation may be experienced followed by a sudden or gradual stoppage of the menstruation. Emotional trauma or stress is often the cause of this pattern. Symptoms and signs related to this condition are similar to Qi stagnation although the pain may be more intense. Other symptom and signs can include dark skin macules, sallow complexion, headaches, purple lips, and a palpable mass in the stomach.
TCM Treatment for secondary amenorrhea
Acupuncturists often require their patient to come for treatment once or twice a week. Besides acupuncture, dietary changes and Chinese herbal formula are added to the treatment course. Resolving the underlying problem of the secondary amenorrhea may take around three menstrual cycles although there are patients who experience an immediate relief of their symptoms; others may require a longer amount of time to see an improvement in their condition. General health, lifestyle and stress levels are important factors to consider to properly resolve this condition.
Christina M. Prieto is a licensed acupuncturist in Orlando, FL. She is also the founder of Harmony Wellness Center.