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Ease Monthly Misery the TCM Way
Many women experience pain or discomfort before and during their periods. Dysmenorrhoea is the medical term for the cramping pain in the lower abdomen that signals the onset of menstruation, and which often carries on for one or more days after. Some women experience nothing worse than mild discomfort, but others suffer to the extent of being incapacitated for their whole period.
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), and its combination of prescribed diet, exercise and attention to emotional wellbeing, cures ills as well as maintaining good health, and is a a source of relief for women who suffer lumbar and abdominal pain, breast pain and edema during menstruation.
Menstrual pain us caused by contractions in the musculature of the uterus upon the release of hormone-like prostaglandins produced in the endometrium, or lining of the womb.
TCM theory classifies menstrual syndromes according to the body's internal organs and meridians, or channels through which qi – vital energy -- flows. TCM differentiations of menstrual syndromes, therefore, are based on the liver, heart, spleen and kidneys. Patterns within these variations are, according to TCM, generally the result of qi and xue (blood) deficiencies or stagnation.
Stagnant qi is at the root of Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS), breast distension, pain in the ribs, abdomen and back. and a scanty, clotted menstrual flow. The TCM solution is to regulate the qi.
Stagnant blood causes the sharp abdominal pain that eases once the menstrual flow, deep in color and with dark clots, begins.
Deficient qi and blood cause the dull pain that some women experience when menstruation has finished, along with fatigue, pale face and tongue, dizziness and a weak pulse.
There is a specific TCM regimen for mild menstrual pain.
No 1: Backache
The ache in the small of the back many women experience before and during menstruation is caused by kidney qi (or kidney yang) deficiency.
A hot compress is the TCM remedy.
Place a hot-water bottle wrapped in a hot, moist towel at the small of the back for ten minutes, and for the same time on either side. Repeat this treatment on either side of the length of the lumbar column.
There is also a TCM self-massage treatment.
Lying face down, press your overlapped hands on the lower lumbar vertebrae for 10 to 15 minutes. Alternatively, sit in a chair and gently chafe the lower spine in a vertical motion. If you feel a hard lump beneath the skin, knead it with your thumbs, but be gentle because knocking the spinal column causes pelvic congestion and accelerates the circulation which worsens lumbar pain.
The TCM lifestyle recommendation for soothing menstrual lumbar pain is to keep warm, avoid chills and damp, and restrict your intake of cold foods or fruits, even in high summer. Lumbar exercise is a priority for women in sedentary work, or who stand for extended periods.
The TCM folk prescription for lumbar soreness before and during menstruation comprises:
30g Chinese motherwort (yi mu cao) and two eggs. Boil eggs and herbs together for 20 minutes. Peel the eggs and boil for another 20 minutes. Eat the eggs and drink the herb soup.
No 2: Abdominal Pain
Menstrual cramps, blood deficiency or a dysfunction in the reproductive organs are all possible causes of abdominal pain, manifest in a cramping, dragging or cold pain in the lower abdomen, during menstruation. Abdominal exercise and massage counteract blood and qi stagnation. Exercise, in other words, releases endorphins, which are the body's natural pain relievers.
1. Lying face up, lift and bend the knees, and take two breaths from the lower abdomen, Do this exercise two to three times a day.
2. Lying face up, alternately lift and bend the knees of the left and right legs. Do this exercise three times a day.
3. Stand, drop to a squat and stand again six times.
4. Stand and lift the heels six times.
Massage is also therapeutic for abdominal pain. Place the hands on the upper abdomen and massage in a clockwise direction for one minute, then chafe up and down to lower abdomen on either side for one minute. Finally, chafe the lumbar column up and down for a few minutes.
Applying a hot compress three days before the onset of menses can also alleviate abdominal pain. Put a hot pack filled with traditional Chinese herbs on the abdomen two-to-four times a day. The herbs include 15g radix angelicae dahuricae (bai zhi), 1g rhizoma cyperi (xiang fu), 2g radix angelicae sinensis (Chinese angelica root, dang gui), and 1g crocus sativus L. (zang hong hua). Chop the herbs and heat with one mill. vinegar.
Another TCM formula eases abdominal pain by soothing the liver and regulating the qi:
Marinate 15g fennel fructus foeniculi (xiao hui xiang) and 15g pericarpium citri reticulatae viride (qing pi) in 250g rice wine (or vinegar) for three days. Drink 15g to 30g of the brew twice a day.
The toothache that many women experience a week or so before menstruation could be the result of excessive heat in the liver, in which case massaging the joints between the instep and big toe and inner foot is recommended. Brushing the teeth and rinsing with warm water and avoiding hard, coarse and spicy food is also advisable.
Another TCM tip is to massage and apply a bag of ice to the V-shaped web between thumb and index finger for five to seven minutes.
No.4 Breast Pain
Excessive blood and qi in the body may cause distension and pain in the breast before, after and during menstruation.
The TCM remedy for breast pain is a hot compress consisting of cotton fabric soaked in castor oil placed on the breasts. Add another castor oil-soaked layer and a hot pack and leave for one hour.
You could also try powdering the navel with:
10g radix angelicae sinensis (Chinese angelica root, dang gui),
10g radix angelicae formosanae (bai zhi),
6g herba violae (zi hua di ding),
6g radix rehmanniae (sheng di huang),
1g musk aroma (she xiang)
Avoiding coffee, carbonated drinks, chocolate, ice cream, tea and painkilling drugs containing caffeine in favor of low fat and sodium, high-fiber foods like fruits, vegetables, legumes, and grains also avoid breast pain.
But the best thing you can do, apart from reminding yourself that you are not sick, is to stay in good physical health. A healthy lifestyle is one of daily exercise, plenty of sleep and rest and stress avoidance if at all possible.
If period pains are persistently more than just an inconvenience, consult your doctor or gynecologist.
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