What is Pre-menstrual Syndrome (PMS)?
Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) is often viewed as a “problem” or illness.
Instead, PMS is a variety of responses to an ordinary event in women’s lives: menstruation. PMS usually occurs monthly, accompanied with specific symptoms and signs that can appear seven to ten days before menstruation and then disappear after the onset of the menstrual flow. To better understand PMS, it is important to look at the whole picture.
What causes Pre-menstrual Syndrome (PMS)?
Although PMS is due to unbalanced hormonal fluctuations, other factors such as stress, a nutritionally inadequate diet, lack of exercise and sleep, and a hectic or sedentary lifestyle can exacerbate the symptoms. Because of most women exhibit as many as four to ten symptoms one to two weeks prior to menstruation, their lives – from relationships with family and friends, to work productivity and the ability to appreciate and take pleasure in their own bodies – may become diminished.
To make matters worse, women may be at increased risk for PMS if
1) they are over 30 years old;
2) they are experiencing significant amount of stress;
3) their nutritional habits are poor;
4) they have suffered side effects, from birth control pills;
5) they have difficulty maintaining a stable weight;
6) they do not get enough exercise;
7) they have had children (the more children, the more severe the symptoms, or
8) they have a family history of depression.
Common PMS symptoms & signs:
- appetite changes
- Breast tenderness & swelling
- Constipation and/or diarrhoea
- Heart palpitation
- Irritability & anger
- Lack of concentration
- Lack of libido
- Lower abdominal distension
- Mood swings
- Night sweats
- Salt & carbohydrate cravings
- Skin disorders
- Sore throat & cold sores
- Sugar cravings
- Water retention
- Weight gain
What to do about PMS
Western medicine recommends diet and lifestyle changes coupled with medications that manipulate the levels of progesterone and estrogens (i.e. birth control pills), tranquilizers and/or antidepressant (for nervousness, anxiety and depression) that affect mood and emotions.
Although prescription medications can sometimes bring immediate relief, they unfortunately do not address the underlying cause of PMS, and they can cause unwanted side effects that may make PMS symptoms.
Chinese medicine acupuncture – A natural approach
According to the principles of Chinese medicine, the underlying cause of PMS is often an imbalance or blockage of Qi (vital energy) and blood within specific organ and meridian systems. When there is an imbalance or blockage, symptoms associated with PMS may arise.
In 1997, the National Institute of Health (NIH) released a consensus report stating that acupuncture can effectively manage menstrual cramps and other PMS symptoms. Acupuncture works by restoring balance and harmony, both physically and emotionally, and offers a natural approach to addressing PMS symptoms.
A Chinese medicine acupuncture practitioner’s role is to investigate the root causes contributing to PMS symptoms. Through a comprehensive diagnostic evaluation, they identify which organ and meridian systems are out of balance. By targeting these imbalances, your Chinese medicine acupuncture practitioner aims to alleviate PMS symptoms based on the individual patient’s specific concerns and imbalances.
How to perform acupuncture for PMS?
By inserting fine, sterile needles into specific points on the body, an acupuncturist is able to stimulate and activate the movement of Qi and blood. When qi and blood begin to travel freely throughout the body, balance and normal function are restored and PMS symptoms are alleviated. Acupuncture restores energy balance and provides deep relaxation to help reduce stress, ultimately encouraging and supporting greater health and wellbeing of both body and mind.
Chinese herbal medicine for PMS
Herbal formulas are designed to restore balance and alleviate specific symptoms associated with women’s health issue such as PMS. Here are some commonly used Chinese herbs and herbal formulas for PMS symptoms:
- Chai Hu (Bupleurum): Known for its ability to regulate liver Qi and soothe emotional imbalances, Chai Hu is often included in formulas for PMS with irritability, mood swings, and breast tenderness.
- Bai Shao (White Peony Root): Bai Shao is commonly used to nourish blood and regulate menstruation. It can help reduce menstrual pain, cramps, and emotional instability.
- Dang Gui (Chinese Angelica Root): Dang Gui is a widely used herb for women’s health. It helps tonify blood, regulate menstrual flow, and alleviate symptoms like abdominal pain, headaches, and fatigue associated with PMS.
- Xiang Fu (Cyperus Rhizome): Xiang Fu is often included in formulas for PMS with emotional imbalances, irritability, and breast distention. It helps regulate liver Qi and promote smooth flow of Qi and blood.
- Xiao Yao San (Free and Easy Wanderer): This is a popular herbal formula used for PMS and menstrual disorders. It combines multiple herbs, including Chai Hu, Bai Shao, and Dang Gui, to address a range of symptoms such as irritability, mood swings, breast distention, and abdominal pain.
- Gui Zhi Fu Ling Wan (Cinnamon and Poria Pill): This formula is commonly used for PMS with heavy or painful periods. It helps promote blood circulation, reduce stagnation, and alleviate cramps and pelvic pain.
- Wu Ling San (Five-Ingredient Powder with Poria): Wu Ling San is often used for PMS with water retention, bloating, and edema. It helps promote diuresis and reduce fluid accumulation.
A Chinese medicine practitioner may also recommend lifestyle changes such as eating a nourishing, organic, whole foods diet, getting regular aerobic exercise and adequate sleep, enjoying warm baths, supplementing the diet with vitamins and herbs, and practicing deep relaxation exercises such as meditation, breathing exercises, or Yoga.
Whether you suffer from PMS symptoms on an occasional or a monthly basis, acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine can offer a natural and drug free approach to alleviating the symptoms. Acupuncture and Chinese medicine may hold the key to a healthier, balanced, PMS-free life.
Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD)
Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD) is a severe form of premenstrual syndrome (PMS) characterised by intense mood swings, irritability, depression, and other physical symptoms that significantly impact a person’s quality of life.
Acupuncture for PMDD
Here’s how acupuncture might help with PMDD:
- Hormonal Balance: Acupuncture is believed to influence the body’s hormone levels, including serotonin and beta-endorphins, which can affect mood and alleviate pain. Balancing these hormones may help in managing PMDD symptoms.
- Stress Reduction: Acupuncture sessions often promote relaxation and stress relief by stimulating specific points on the body. Since stress can exacerbate PMDD symptoms, reducing stress levels may help in managing its effects.
- Pain Relief: Acupuncture may help alleviate physical discomfort associated with PMDD, such as cramps and breast tenderness, by stimulating nerves and improving blood circulation.
- Overall Well-being: TCM views health holistically. Acupuncture aims to restore the body’s balance and overall well-being, potentially addressing the underlying imbalances contributing to PMDD symptoms.
When considering acupuncture for PMDD:
- Consultation: Seek a qualified acupuncturist experienced in treating hormonal imbalances and women’s health issues. They can create a personalised treatment plan based on your specific symptoms.
- Consistency: Regular acupuncture sessions may be necessary to achieve the desired results. It’s essential to commit to a treatment schedule recommended by your practitioner.
- Integration with Other Treatments: Acupuncture can complement other treatments for PMDD, such as herbal medication, diet change or lifestyle changes. Always inform your healthcare provider about any complementary therapies you’re considering.
Disclaimer: The information provided above is for educational purposes and should not be considered medical advice.
In 2018 Cochrane authors reviewed the evidence on the effectiveness and safety of acupuncture or acupressure in women with premenstrual syndrome (PMS) or premenstrual dysphoric disorder. The authors concluded that the limited evidence available suggests that acupuncture and acupressure may improve both physical and psychological symptoms of PMS when compared to a sham control.
Effects and treatment methods of acupuncture and herbal medicine for premenstrual syndrome/premenstrual dysphoric disorder: systematic review.
Limited evidence supports the efficacy of alternative medicinal interventions such as acupuncture and herbal medicine in controlling premenstrual syndrome and premenstrual dysphoric disorder. Acupuncture and herbal medicine treatments for premenstrual syndrome and premenstrual dysphoric disorder showed a 50% or better reduction of symptoms compared to the initial state. In both acupuncture and herbal medical interventions, there have been no serious adverse events reported, proving the safety of the interventions while most of the interventions provided over 50% relief of symptoms associated with PMS/PMDD. Stricter diagnostic criteria may have excluded many participants from some studies. Also, depending on the severity of symptoms, the rate of improvement in the outcomes of the studies may have greatly differed.
BMC Complement Altern Med. 2014 Jan 10;14:11. doi: 10.1186/1472-6882-14-11.
Almond Wellness Centre
Almond Wellness Centre located in Coburg and Ringwood in Melbourne, is a multidisciplinary clinic dedicated to promoting wellness. At our clinics, we emphasise the importance of comprehensive healthcare that considers the entirety of an individual. Our approach involves treating each person as a unique individual, taking into account their lifestyle, diet, environment, emotions, and attitude.
Whether you are in search of treatment for a particular health issue or aiming to enhance your overall well-being, Almond Wellness Centre is dedicated to delivering personalised care tailored to your needs. Our goal is to assist you in achieving your health objectives and supporting your journey towards optimal wellness.
As each person is different, if you or someone you care about is experiencing premenstrual period issues and would like to explore the potential benefits of Chinese medicine acupuncture, please don’t hesitate to contact us. Our fully qualified registered acupuncture Chinese medicine practitioners in both Coburg clinic and Ringwood clinic are here to provide information and assistance.