Pre-menstrual Syndrome and Pre-menstrual Dysphoric Disorder are two conditions on the same continuum, with PMDD being the more severe of the two. While the only allopathic protocol is treat with hormones, TCM excels at addressing both the root cause as well as the symptoms of these conditions.
The Liver Governs Blood
From a Chinese medical perspective on these conditions is entirely different than the allopathic view. Western medicine assigns all symptoms to fluctuations in female hormones (estrogen and progesterone), while TCM assigns the symptoms to the liver organ. The degree of congestion in liver directly correlates to how symptomatic a woman may be at ovulation and menstruation.
According the NIH…
From a research perspective, authors of a 2018 meta-analysis of studies looking at acupuncture and acupressure for treatment of PMS and PMDD conclude only “that acupuncture and acupressure may improve both physical and psychological symptoms of PMS when compared to a sham control.” 1 This is mainly due to the limited number of studies that currently exist on the subject.
How Acupuncture Treats PMS
- Calms the sympathetic nervous system to reduce stress & increase sense of wellness
- Moves qi and blood; eliminating cramps, low back pain, and headaches
- Regulates endocrine function to normalize cycle length
- Regulates digestion to address diarrhea or constipation
Understanding Your Chinese Medicine Diagnosis
To understand how acupuncture can help PMS, you have to look at first from a TCM perspective. The liver governs blood and is responsible for menstruation. Along with the kidney, which controls fertility, the liver is really the corollary to the endocrine system (internal glands that secrete hormones).
When the liver and kidneys are functioning normally, menstruation happens on a regular cycle, and without issue. However, when the liver is congested, the kidneys are weak, or there is not enough blood, there can be a host of issues.
Breaking It Down
Below are examples of how the TCM diagnoses pre-menstrual disorders.
Liver Qi Stagnation may include:
- Bloating & Distension
- Mild Headache
- Mild Agitation or Irritability
- Mild to moderate cramping or low back pain
Liver Blood Stagnation may include:
- Sharp or stabbing pain
- Delayed onset of menstruation
- Blood clots (monthly or every other month)
- Moderate to severe headache
- Significant irritability
- Liver ‘attacking’” spleen results in diarrhea or loose stools
How Acupuncture Helps PMS/PMDD
Acupuncture optimizes the function of each of these organs in the context of available resources. It also creates a sense of wellness, reduces pain, and helps to move qi and blood in the body. Over several months of treatment (3-4 menstrual cycles), acupuncture can regulate menstruation.
Herbs Play A Significant Role
Herbs work internally and provide the same benefits as acupuncture, but have the added benefit of being able ‘build blood’ and further regulated the endocrine system so that the body functions normally on its own without outside influence. In short, herbs have the ability to restore the body’s own ability to govern ovulation and menstruation.
If you are someone you know is struggling with either the physical or emotional symptoms of PMS, consider a short course of acupuncture or hebal formula to address the underlying imbalances. Most conditions show significant improvement within the first month.