The technical term for painful periods is dysmenorrhea. The pain can range from a mild nuisance to a severe pain that’s debilitating and inhibits normal daily activities. This is the body’s way of letting us know attention is needed to restore balance. Treating the pain in a natural way means understanding the underlying source of the symptoms. Our bodies are complex creations with an incredible capacity to heal, if we listen to what they are telling us.
In Chinese medicine, there are three main causes of dysmenorrhea: qi stagnation, blood stagnation, and blood deficiency—each with a unique pattern. Qi stagnation tends to cause pain that is dull and achy and usually begins prior to the cycle, accompanied by other PMS symptoms. Blood stagnation manifests as more of a stabbing pain and is accompanied by dark menstrual blood with clots. Blood deficient pain is usually dull or heavy and comes toward the end of the menses.
In order to address these underlying patterns of imbalance, I consider acupuncture, sophisticated herbal prescriptions, and diet and lifestyle changes to bring relief and ease to patients. Commonly recommended, in addition to tailored Chinese medical therapies, are exercise to reduce stagnation, plenty of sleep, high-quality omega-3 fatty acids, and a healthy well-rounded diet with limited sugars and processed food.
Candace Billings, President of Sundara Wellness, MSOM, LAc, FABORM
She began her acupuncture and holistic medical practice after graduating with high honors from the National College of Natural Medicine. There she obtained a Master of Science in Oriental Medicine, and is nationally board certified in acupuncture and licensed by the state of Tennessee. She specializes in women’s health, fertility, prenatal and postpartum care, digestive and endocrine disorders, fatigue, and emotional health.
Period cramping in some ways has become its own enigma. In a lot of cases, it is actually a muscle cramp, a Charlie horse in a woman’s lower abdomen. Physical therapy can help calm the muscle that is in a spasm to alleviate period cramps. Often, patients note that their periods sneak up on them after treatment because they suddenly stop cramping leading up to menstruation.
When muscles in the pelvic floor are slightly contracted or are “on” throughout the month, this can cause cramping during ovulation or during menstruation because they are already in a state of muscle fatigue or depletion. By normalizing that resting tone, the changes throughout a cycle will barely cause a ripple in comfort level.
Amy Moses, Director of Pelvic Health Physical Therapy, DPT, OMT
Amy graduated from the University of Mississippi Medical Center, earning a Doctorate degree in Physical Therapy. She completed a residency program in Seattle, WA through the Ola Grimsby Institute, specializing in Orthopedic Manual Therapy. She specializes in manual therapy, women’s health, pelvic floor rehabilitation, fertility, and prenatal and postpartum care.
You might be surprised to know that what you eat and/or what nutrients your body lacks could be affecting your period and the pain that comes along with it. One common deficit is magnesium. In fact, about 50% of the population has lower-than-optimal levels.
Ways to increase your magnesium:
- Incorporate foods such as dark green leafy vegetables, nuts and seeds, avocados, bananas, dark chocolate, seaweed, black beans, garlic, quinoa, and brown rice.
- Choose a high-quality magnesium supplement.
- Soak in an Epsom salt bath.
Additionally, eating foods that decrease inflammation helps decrease menstrual cramps. Sundara offers micronutrient and hormone testing to help patients get to the root of the pain. Another thing that can help with hormone regulation and period pain is looking at environmental hormone disruptors. As shocking as it may seem, lotions, conditioners, detergents, perfumes, deodorants, and other products we put on our body could actually influence our level of pain during periods.
Cody Giovannetti, RDN, LDN, CLS
She completed her Bachelor of Science in Nutrition at the University of Memphis and completed her Dietetic Internship from University of Tennessee at Martin. She became a Certified Lactation Specialist in March of 2017 and holds a Certificate of Training in Adult Weight Management through the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Cody has been practicing Medical Nutrition Therapy for a local hospital for the past eight years. She focuses on integrative and functional nutrition and intuitive/mindful eating.
Sundara Wellness is a team of holistic healthcare providers who share a vision to offer complete and accessible care for all. We seek to understand the underlying source of symptoms of patients and approach the healing process from multiple angles. We provide acupuncture, physical therapy, massage, nutrition and dietetics, women’s primary care, mental health, chiropractic, yoga, Pilates, personal training, and more. For more information, visit Sundarawellness.com or call 901.405.0250.