Premenstrual syndrome, or PMS, is often the subject of jokes, but if your life is affected by this condition, chances are it’s no laughing matter. PMS affects over half of all women of childbearing age, and is caused by fluctuations in their hormones. In women who are affected, these hormonal changes trigger symptoms that occur during the one to two weeks before the onset of their period.
Symptoms of PMS
PMS is called a syndrome because it’s associated with a wide variety of common physical and emotional symptoms that occur together, but may be experienced differently by each woman. Physical symptoms of PMS include cramping, achiness, breast tenderness, food cravings, weight gain, bloating, constipation or diarrhea, headaches, and skin breakouts. Some of the emotional symptoms of PMS include mood swings, irritability, sadness, anxiety, and anger. Both physical and emotional symptoms typically resolve after the onset of your period, only to recur again with your next cycle.
What Causes PMS?
In Chinese medicine, PMS is usually diagnosed as something called a Liver Qi stagnation. Your Chinese Liver organ system is responsible for a number of functions, but one of the most important is to regulate the free flow and circulation of all the systems in your body. This includes your digestion, circulation, emotions, and yes, your menstrual cycle. When what should flow becomes blocked, symptoms occur. In the case of PMS, the circulation and flow associated with your menstrual cycle is impeded, causing pain, bloating, irritability, and other symptoms. And a little bit like a dam bursting, once your period begins, the blockage is resolved and your PMS subsides.
Acupuncture Can Help
Many women turn to acupuncture for treatment of PMS symptoms. Acupuncture can be helpful in a number of ways. It can increase circulation throughout your body, but especially in your lower abdomen to relieve uterine pain and bowel issues. Acupuncture also triggers the release of feel-good endorphins in your brain, which can help dramatically with irritability and mood swings. In addition, acupuncture stimulates your brain’s pain relief system to circulate opioid-like chemicals that help with the cramping and achiness associated with PMS.
In addition to acupuncture, your practitioner may also incorporate other healing tools into the mix. They may prescribe an herbal formula to enhance your acupuncture treatment, use heat therapy, or suggest some dietary changes to help control your symptoms.
There are also a few things that you can do at home to help ease the impact of PMS. Among them:
- Do what it takes to bring calm into your day. Stress hinders flow in all aspects of your life—physical and emotional—and only serves to aggravate your PMS.
- Get some light exercise. Moving your body helps to keep everything else moving, including your muscles, circulation, heart, lungs, and mind.
- At the same time, make sure you get adequate rest. Your body heals and rejuvenates while you sleep, and this is no time to skimp on getting your eight hours.
- Try to eat well despite food cravings. Getting enough plant-based foods will help keep your digestion healthy; light proteins and whole carbs will keep your energy even; and avoiding very sweet or salty foods will help reduce the intensity of your food cravings.
- Add a little heat to the mix. Applying a heating pad or a warm rice bag to your lower abdomen can help relieve cramping and increase circulation. Aim for fifteen minutes of heat three times a day.
The bottom line is that you don’t have to be sidelined for two weeks every month by your hormones. Your practitioner of acupuncture and Chinese medicine can help to relieve the physical and emotional symptoms associated with PMS.