If the average period lasts from 5 – 7 days, and the average woman is fertile for 30 years, that adds up to 1800 – 2520 days out of her lifetime that a woman is bleeding. Never mind the amount of time she has PMS as well: that’s a whole lot of time feeling at least uncomfortable and, in some cases, like a complete bag of refried crap.
My schedule had been more or less regular until after I was in a bad car accident. I didn’t have any internal injuries, but afterwards, my periods were definitely not the same. For one, I was in an extreme amount of pain with cramps. My doctor at the time said that there was nothing that he could do, but prescribed muscle relaxants to help with the “discomfort,” as he called it. The pills did nothing for the pain, but they did help me to sleep – which, I guess was a way of dealing with the pain. Fast forward a number of years: no longer in extreme pain from cramps, but my period was coming anywhere from every 2-3 weeks to simply continuing for 2-3 weeks. I was anemic, couldn’t think straight and was in practically a continuous state of PMS.
The only thing that my doctor could do was prescribe birth control – which turned me into a suicidal, emotional wreck. Apparently I’m one of the percentage of women that can’t take hormonal birth control. So that option was off the table for regulating my cycle … now what? A friend of mine referred me to an acupuncturist and Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioner for another reason (lack of sleep). During the intake, I mentioned my screwed-up menses when he asked about other issues. He immediately said that he could work on that as well as the insomnia and should be able to do something about it, sans side effects. When I first went to see him, I’ll admit, I was skeptical. Prescription medication, warm baths, warm milk, prescription medication, etc., nothing had worked for my problems. And he was going to fix me by poking me in various places with little tiny needles? Right.
The next period I got, I had a marked decrease in abdominal cramping and it wasn’t as heavy. Over the next couple of months, with the use of acupuncture and herbal medicines together, my cycle was brought back into alignment and the pain-free periods continued. I still got some minor cramping, but compared to how things had been before, I was pretty happy. My insomnia also improved – but neither of these were overnight miracle cures. Some of the symptoms were able to be dealt with immediately, others took time. This is because the treatments build upon each other to create a lasting change, instead of a “quick fix” that ends after a short period, resulting in treatments having to be continued for a lengthy amount of time.
Acupuncture can also help with other PMS symptoms, like cravings, bloating and irritability. Depending on the severity level of the symptoms, some relief may be experienced immediately, while other times, it may take two or three repeated treatments (over the course of a month). The thing to remember about acupuncture is that every practitioner does the same basic things, but they will do them differently according to their experience. It’s rather like finding a family doctor – you want to go to someone that you feel comfortable with, who listens to you and takes your problems seriously, without either dismissing your concerns or refusing to believe the severity of your symptoms. This might mean talking to a variety of practitioners before you find one that “fits” you. However, your health is something that should never be taken lightly: women too often find themselves in a power dynamic of “the professional knows best” when it comes to our menstrual cycles.
The honest truth is that Western-model medical practitioners often don’t know a great deal about the menses and the difficulties they present, because up until recently, it just hasn’t been considered a priority. You owe yourself, and your body, a health experience that leaves you feeling empowered, informed and knowledgeable about what’s happening. If you’re at your wit’s end, give acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine a try.