Traditional Chinese Medicine focuses on treating the underlying cause of a patient’s illness rather than treating the symptoms. The Chinese describe a life-giving energy or chi which is the motive force in all living beings and throughout nature. In good health the chi is able to flow easily through pathways or meridians that run in our bodies. When the chi is depleted, restricted or disturbed in some way then illness will occur. Chinese Medicine states that the chi of the Liver, Spleen and Kidney is primary in regulating the menstrual cycle. So the chi needs to be balanced and strong in each of these organs for the menstrual cycle to be able to flow easily.
From the perspective of Chinese Medicine there are many different reasons why women’s periods are painful; the symptoms will vary a great deal according to the underlying energetic imbalance. For example, if the Kidney chi becomes depleted, the symptoms will include fatigue, lower back pain and weakness. On the other hand if the Liver chi is depleted a very different set of symptoms manifests. These will include irritability, insomnia, headache and a fixed stabbing pain in the abdomen. These symptoms occur because the Liver chi, which is responsible for the smooth flowing of the chi throughout the body, is not strong enough to facilitate the menstrual flow. Because treatment is directed to the needs of each individual patient, great care is taken to thoroughly understand the unique set of symptoms that each patient experiences. In every case a thorough case history is taken, and additional insight is gained by taking the pulses and by palpating the abdomen.
In Chinese Medicine treatment is formulated by the needs of the individual. For example when the chi is depleted and weak, treatment is directed towards building and strengthening the patient’s vital energy. If the chi has became blocked, treatment is directed towards dispersing the chi so it can flow smoothly. This rebalancing of the chi is achieved by the use of acupuncture and herbs.
By inserting very fine needles the balance and flow of the energy can be re-established. The chi can be moved from one area to another which is depleted. The needles are inserted into specific points that lie on meridians or the pathways along which the chi flows. One point on the Liver meridian, Supreme Rushing, helps to unblock the chi, while on the kidney meridian Greater Mountain Stream or Yin Valley might be selected to nourish and build the Kidney chi. When a patient’s symptoms includes coldness, an herb called moxa may also be used to help warm and strengthen the chi. A small cone of the herb is placed on the acupuncture point and lit. The moxa gradually warms the point and is removed once it is hot.
Chinese herbs are also most effective in treating painful periods. Herbal formulas are selected according to the specific needs of each individual patient. The treatment principle of herbs is identical to that of acupuncture. Some formulas will build and strengthen the chi while others will disperse and help move the chi. There are dozens of herbal formulas that can be used to treat the widely varying patterns of disharmony that can occur, and considerable care is needed to select a formula that will meet the needs of each specific case.
Together these two forms of treatment provide a powerful and effective means to balance the whole system. When this balance is re-established, the monthly menstrual cycle changes from being a debilitating and painful experience to one that is passed through easily.