Menstrual Pain

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Q. I experience dreadful period pain. Sometimes I have to take a day off work but mostly I just try taking pain killers and getting on with it. I would rather not be taking so many pain killers.

A. Dysmenorrhoea, ie period pain, affects the vast majority women. Around three quarters of young women and up to a half of adult women have period pain and in around a fifth of women, it prevents normal daily activity.

The pain can be not only in the abdomen but also the back and thighs. Other symptoms can include headaches, nausea, tiredness, feeling faint, dizziness and diarrhoea. (Breast pain and distension is another symptom that can be experienced during a period.)

The NHS advise (see http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Periods-painful/Pages/Introduction.aspx ) to see your GP if you have severe period period to check for other possible causes.

Their suggested self-help measures include, amongst others, gentle exercise, applying heat (ensuring it is not too hot) to your tummy or a warm bath or shower, massage techniques or relaxation techniques to distract you.

The fact that period pain prevents the normal daily activity of one fifth of women shows what a huge number of women are effected. This of course can be occurring every month during the years that they have periods. Of course they are dealing with this on top of whatever else may be going on in their lives. As with a lot of pain, those around you cannot fully appreciate just how bad it may feel for you.

In Traditional Acupuncture or Tui Na, the practitioner would want to look out what techniques they would use for a particular woman in the midst of period pain. Also the practitioner would look at what interventions they could employ, for that woman, to benefit her next cycle and cycles thereafter.

Period pain would be indicative of an imbalance in the body and that woman’s own experience of period pain would provide the indicators and triggers of their pain. The location of the pain indicates the Channel involved. The type of pain, which can be so wide ranging for example aching, bloating, dragging, cramping stabbing, etc, contributes to deciding the nature of the disharmony within the Channel or the effected Traditional Chinese Medicine TCM Organ (most of which share the names of Western Medicine organs). The pattern of her cycle is important here and also what does she find helps to alleviate her period pain. In addition to this, her general health, diet, lifestyle and what is going on in her life are taken into account. These would all go to build the picture of what is happening with that individual and so go to decide the techniques the practitioner would like to employ.

As with advice on the NHS website, self help techniques can be an important and empowering part of encouraging a more comfortable cycle.

As ever, for peace of mind, please use properly qualified practitioners, who are members of a professional body. For example the British Acupuncture Council (BAcC) www.acupuncture.org.uk, amongst its requirements, states members must have completed first-degree-level training or equivalent in traditional acupuncture including substantial elements of western anatomy, physiology and pathology.