Can Acupuncture help PMS?

acupuncture-needles

Although there are no formal blood tests to label Pre-menstrual Syndrome (PMS) the 100 or so officially recognised symptoms tend to begin the fortnight before the start of a period during what’s called the luteal phase. These symptoms affect women on both a physical and psychological level, causing mood swings, breast pain, tiredness and bloating, to name a few of the 100 listed symptoms.

Hormonal imbalance is the most likely cause of PMS in that the ovarian steroids oestrogen and progesterone cause changes in brain neurotransmitters – our chemical messengers. Since our diet and our levels of stress also affect our hormones and our mood, addressing this area first is sensible.

bloating-acheQi Stagnation

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), which includes the practice of Acupuncture, is holistic in its approach. That means that theories and treatment strategies will vary according to the individual collection of symptoms that the person has.  A proper diagnosis is important in deciding the most appropriate way of addressing the symptoms. TCM philosophy is that particular symptoms correlate to different organs and body substances being out of balance. One of the most common Chinese Medicine theories of PMS is called Qi Stagnation and/or Blood Stagnation.

This happens when our Qi (pronounced Chee), best described as our energy, is either stagnant and/or deficient and therefore cannot move the menstrual blood. This causes specific symptoms of spotting, abdominal pain, a bearing down sensation, bloating, breast pain and emotional irritability and/or tearfulness.

acu-pointsIndividual Diagnosis

Naturopathic Acupuncturists who are trained at CNM’s industry-accredited Diploma programme need to establish your individual diagnosis.  They will ask questions about your sleep, your digestion, your bowel movements, your diet, your energy levels and so on. Your answers will contribute to the diagnosis, along with the practitioner’s inspection of the colour and shape of your tongue.

A CNM Acupuncturist will also feel the pulse on both sides of your wrists as this gives valuable information as to what is happening inside the body. To Acupuncturists, ‘stagnant’ energy appears on the position of the ‘Liver pulse’ and feels ‘wiry’. This is best described as feeling rather like a taught guitar string.

A CNM Acupuncturist will also feel the pulse on both sides of your wrists as this gives valuable information as to what is happening inside the body. To Acupuncturists, ‘stagnant’ energy appears on the position of the ‘Liver pulse’ and feels ‘wiry’. This is best described as feeling rather like a taught guitar string.

herb-spoonsHerbal Medicine

Naturopathic Acupuncture diagnosis not only uses ancient Chinese Medicine techniques to identify illness, it also includes herbal medicine, homeopathic and nutritional diagnosis as these give valuable clues to deficiencies and dis-ease within the body. Herbal medicines and Homeopathic remedies can be specifically recommended as each has its own specific powerful effect on the body.

Acupuncture given just before the beginning of the menstrual cycle can make a significant difference to the reduction in severity of PMS symptoms. Specific Acupuncture points are selected according to the diagnosis and sterile needles the thickness of a human hair are inserted painlessly into these Acupuncture points. The needles are left in for up to 30 minutes whilst you lie still and relax.

walnuts-antiinflammatoryAnti-inflammatory Foods

As food is an important part of the healing toolkit, a naturopathic practitioner can also advise on dietary changes to reduce inflammation and boost nutrients to support healthy hormones.

Food cravings are often higher in women with PMS, possibly due to decreased levels of serotonin, a hormone that helps stabilise our mood.  Reducing certain types of fat intake, eliminating caffeine, and moving towards a predominately vegetarian diet could be beneficial.  Taking essential Omega-3 fatty acids is important for the brain and these can be found in cold water fish, flax and walnuts.

As well as offering advice on dietary changes to suit your symptoms specifically, a naturopathic practitioner can also help you identify any toxins in your diet, personal products and lifestyle which may be playing havoc with your hormones.  And finally, as Acupuncture can promote relaxation it is helpful in managing stress levels. 

By Acupuncturist Amanda Hair who lectures at CNM