I am frequently asked about the various conditions that acupuncture can treat, and one of the most frequent asks I get is whether acupuncture can help PMS. The short answer is an emphatic yes. In fact, gynecological conditions are some of the most successfully treated problems by Chinese medicine and acupuncture.
PMS, or Premenstrual Syndrome, covers a wide variety of symptoms, usually occurring within the week to ten days prior to the onset of a period. The symptoms of PMS may be physical, such as breast tenderness, abdominal cramping, constipation or diarrhea, acne, and loss of libido.
However, it is usually the emotional symptoms that give PMS the bad reputation and fodder for endless (not so funny) jokes. Emotional symptoms of PMS include depression, irritability, sadness, anxiety, and poor concentration.
In Western medicine, PMS is often treated like any other disease. Its symptoms are treated with over-the-counter or prescription drugs or hormones. In Chinese medicine, severe PMS is considered to be an indicator that an underlying imbalance exists. Treatment is focused on correcting the imbalance, which is the source of the problem, not just eliminating the outward symptoms.
In most cases, PMS is the result of a stagnation of Liver energy. In Chinese medicine, the Liver is an organ system (not your actual Liver) that is responsible for the smooth movement of everything in your body. This means that the unimpeded movement of food, energy, blood, and even emotions depend on a healthy Liver system. A hallmark of blocked Liver energy is that any health issues you have are worse around the menstrual cycle, which is a body function that also needs to flow smoothly. So whether it’s headaches, digestive problems, or raging tantrums–if it’s worse around your period, you can assume that there is some blockage of Liver energy.
Imbalances or stagnation can be caused by a variety of factors, such as poor diet, too much work, physical or emotional trauma, constitutionally weak energy, and especially stress. When you’re stressed out or extremely frustrated, you can almost physically feel the stagnation taking place–the tighter and more “under pressure” you feel, the greater the blockage. Taking good care of yourself by getting enough sleep, eating well (not giving in to cravings!) and doing all you can to alleviate stress will help with PMS.
Acupuncture is a very effective way to treat PMS. Your practitioner may use a variety of modalities besides acupuncture, such as herbal formulas, dietary therapy and lifestyle changes. When performed by a Licensed Acupuncturist, Chinese medicine is a safe, drug-free and effective way to treat PMS. If PMS is affecting your life every month, try acupuncture, unblock some of that stagnation, and go with the flow!