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The Perfect Period is not a Myth: The Chinese Believe No Pain is a Gain

How’s things in the lady department? Do you dread your period every month? Do you experience any of these common symptoms: PMS, bloating, food cravings, headache, lower back ache, pain, excessive bleeding, swollen breasts and lethargy? Or the complications of conditions such as endometriosis and polycystic ovarian syndrome ( PCOS)?

According to Western medicine these symptoms associated with your period are normal and to be endured. Women are often left with little solution other than pass me the naproxen, a bacon and egg roll and I will lay low till it’s all over.

I was of ‘the symptoms are normal’ view until I decided to try acupuncture. I was amazed that things in the lady department just got better. Any adverse symptoms just vanished​ ​, my period comes on time with limited fuss, no pain, no breast distention, no back or headaches and thankfully (for those in close quarters) no behavioural change. It’s somewhat of a no brainer.
If I leave it too long between treatments ​​(say two to three months)​,​ or ​experience additional stress or eat or sleep badly​,​ I notice that some symptoms creep back. I​f so, I​ simply tweak my lifestyle and see my incredible acupuncturist and ‘volia’ back to the perfect period.

How could this be? It seemed a bit too magical and frankly, just plain weird​, so I did the research. In Chinese medicine the period is supposed to come and go every month without incident. The ​adverse ​symptoms are a sign your body is out of balance. ​ANY​ slight symptom means your energy (qi)​ ​is not appropriating well. This aligns with a Western view of when women miss their period in stressful times, or with eating disorders or extreme physical training. The body in these circumstances is under duress.

STRESS: Macro and Micro Stress Doses

Macro stress doses are still with us from the Stone Age due to our incredible human survival instinct. You would have heard this described as ‘fight or flight’. This is when your body senses a major danger like being devoured by a lion and floods your body with the hormone cortisol to either ‘fight or flight’ in that moment. In a state of alert your body shuts off all non​ ​-vital systems. If you are about to be ‘lion lunch’ your body is not prioritising conception, so it halts lesser needed functions. Seems fair really​…​ ​In modern times macro stresses are now other aggressors- a nasty boss, buying a house, a stressful commute, a bereavement, worrying all night about climate change etc. Unfortunately, due to the plasticity of our brain​,​ it has adapted to recognize this type of stress as the same threat as the lion.

Micro stress doses are something Dr Rangan Chatterjee explains in his book ​The Stress Solution. E​​ach person has a threshold ​on​ what their body can cope with. Some people are able to manage huge amounts ​of stress, ​where others less so in comparison, I see this in the clinic all the time. Dr Chatterjee explains your personal threshold here.
Your stress load amasses with the accumulation of lots of minor events building into a macro ​stress ​dose. Macro shuts off parts of the body​,​ so messages to all circadian rhythms can get muddled: sleep patterns, digestion, central nervous system responses and women’s cycles.

How does acupuncture help?

The theory is too complicated to write in a blog (and also, life is too short) but ​acupuncture works in a tailored way on each person, by focussing on hormonal imbalances, blood flow to organs and stress relief.​ W​e have techniques of diagnosis that tell us which energy system (meridian) is not working efficiently and causing the issues. This includes issues around ​infertility and the menopause.

Here is a link to a clinical trial that concluded acupuncture is effective for period pain.

I have a 300-page Chinese Gynaecology and Obstetrics textbook that identifies the patterns associated with hormonal imbalance (a pattern is  how symptoms might group together to help decide which acupuncture points are right for that specific case). Points are used on the kidney, spleen and liver channels mostly, but with attention given to the channels that bring calm and help our body relieve stress.

Every person is different and the reaction to Macro and Micro stresses cause disruption to their body uniquely. The individuality of acupuncture treats each case as it presents so you can adapt the treatment to the person. Acupuncture finds where that energy is stuck and moves it on.

So, ladies – what are you waiting for​?​ ‘Go with the flow’?. (see what I did there!)