In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), your period is a reflection of your blood and qi (the circulating life force). According to TCM, a pain-free period requires abundant blood to flow freely throughout your body. Your TCM practitioner will go through your medical history with you and determine the cause and remedy for your painful cramps.
We spoke to TCM practitioner, Dr. Michelle Law Pui Man 羅佩雯中醫師, about the common causes and remedies for painful menstrual cycles.
A dull, achy pain in the days before and during menstruation and PMS symptoms
- Cause: qi stagnation occurs when qi is under stress because of a dysfunction of the liver.
- Possible treatment: some practitioners treating women experiencing period pain due to qi stagnation will prescribe Xiao Yau San, known in English as Rambling Powder, for the week prior to and during menstruation to relieve their symptoms.
Sharp stabbing pain and heavy, dark blood with clots during menstruation
- Cause: blood stagnation means your blood is not moving through your body as it should.
- Possible treatment: women suffering from blood stagnation may respond well to drinking tea called Tao Hong Si Wu Tang, known in English as Four Substance Tea with Safflower and Peach Pit, for the first 3 days of their period. It’s also likely your practitioner will recommend you avoid eating lot of cold foods (e.g. raw fruits and vegetables and anything cold or frozen). It’s believed that over-eating cold foods contributes to blood stasis.
A dull pain appearing at the end or after menstruation
- Cause: with a blood deficiency, your blood is not providing your organs with enough nutrients to function effectively.
- Possible treatment: women with blood deficiency may respond well to Ba Zhen Tang or Eight Treasure Tea.
Painful menstruation is often addressed using several TCM techniques. Below are a few additional techniques your TCM practitioner may recommend.
Either in conjunction with your TCM practitioner or on their own, an acupuncturist will work with you to determine the root cause of your menstrual cramping. The root cause will determine where they focus their treatment. Generally speaking, acupuncture increases blood flow and relaxes the uterine muscles.
Acupuncture will likely be prescribed for at least two sessions per cycle with an aim of discontinuing the treatment once the symptoms have gone.
Moxibustion, which is the smoking of moxa stick made of Chinese herbal medicine known as Artemisia argyi, right above the lower abdominal area. It may improve the menstrual cramps symptoms due to blood stagnation by warming up the lower abdomen and improving the blood flow to the female organs. Generally speaking, treatment could start 3 days prior to the period until the second day of the menstruation.