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Primary Dysmenorrhea: A Traditional Chinese Approach to Period Pain

Amongst the multitude of treatment options for those experiencing primary dysmenorrhea (period pain which is not attributed to any other pathology such as: endometriosis, fibroids etc.), traditional Chinese medicine and the complimentary medicine approach excels in the management and treatment of symptoms.

From the western perspective, primary dysmenorrhea is one of the most prevalent and disabling gynecological disorders with no identifiable aetiology. It is a disorder which is said to incur an economic impact on a global scale, with an estimated 600 million work hours and 2 billion dollars lost annually in the USA alone. One study recorded as many as 50% of women were affected by primary dysmenorrhea and another 10% experiencing symptoms severe enough to render them incapacitated.

Despite this, other than ruling out secondary dysmenorrhea, the conventional medical approach can offer little insight to its origin. The level of understanding with regard to causative factors from a TCM point of view is more comprehensive in comparison.

In TCM gynecology, the Liver organ and Penetrating vessel, also known as the Chong Mai, are crucial in the free flow of Qi and Blood. Free flow = a painless existence.

The Chong Mai flows through the uterus and is also known as the sea of blood.

Acupuncture

Acupuncture reduces pain in women with dysmenorrhea

Acupuncture, Tui Na (Chinese remedial massage) and Chinese herbs work to harmonise the flow of Qi and Blood in the uterus by treating meridians on the body. There are however, plenty of things that we can do to ensure free flow without even getting to the point of disease! A diet rich in anti-inflammatory foods, an abundance of physical activity and relaxation exercises, nourishing sleep habits and an avoidance of drugs and alcohol will all benefit the Chong Mai and help to keep the menstrual cycle in balance. This also applies to the treatment of subfertility with Chinese medicine. A healthy cycle is a good way to ensure a healthy pregnancy.

Many women are led to believe that it is quite normal to have a huge amount of pain during menstruation and that it is normal to pop a few pain killers or take oral contraceptives to avoid this. According to the old Chinese texts, this is only a modern pathology. Normal periods are pain free and regular in length.

Conventional medicine, although efficient in its pharmacotherapy, lacks the availability of a lasting solution for primary dysmenorrhea and a youth of periods spent fighting pain with prescription medication or pain killers, often leading to undiagnosed complications with fertility, is pretty common unfortunately.

There is a stack of research out there that shows the efficacy of acupuncture and Chinese herbs in dramatically improving the quality of life and level of pain that women are experiencing. Generally, studies show the best results are had over a 3 month treatment regime for chronic cases. The added benefit of an individualised diagnosis and treatment, is that the effects are seen on a more than symptomatic level. Accompanying symptoms such as referred lower back pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, headache, fatigue, anxiety, and dizziness were also alleviated from acupuncture. TCM treatment is also found to have lasting effects on pain relief of up to a 3-6 month follow up period.

Hugh Hayward – Chinese Medicine Doctor, Acupuncture & Chinese Herbalist, An Mo Tui Na and Qi Nei Tsang

Sciatica

Many people have heard of the term sciatica, however it is a very commonly misused and misunderstood term. It covers more than just leg or back pain and can become quite debilitating if left untreated.

Sciatica is actually a group of symptoms and not a diagnosis in itself. The technical meaning of sciatica is dysfunction of the sciatic nerve caused by other spinal structures starting at the nerve root.

This means that actual sciatic pain comes from the nerves that exit the spine, typically at the base above the pelvis (L5-S1), and is most often caused by one of the following:

• Lumbar subluxation (malposition of a joint)
• Lumbar disc herniation
• Degenerative disease
• Spondylolisthesis (where one vertebrae is sitting forward over another)
• Spinal stenosis (where the passage that the spinal chord sits is narrowed)
• And a few others.

The pain associated with sciatica is typically a shooting ‘nerve’ pain that travels quickly down the leg. It often travels down the back of the thigh, past the knee and towards the ankle.

One cause that is a little different from the others is called Piriformis Syndrome. The piriformis is a muscle in the area at the back of the pelvis and in about 15% of the population, the sciatic nerve actually runs through this muscle. That means that when the piriformis is tight or inflamed, it can cause sciatic symptoms even though it’s affecting the nerve further from the spine compared to other more typical causes.

Sciatica

Many people experience sciatic pain differently and may need varying types of treatment. Chiropractic should really be one of the first choices when deciding what to do about your potential sciatica. This is because it’s non-invasive, natural and effective for many cases. The way chiropractic works to reduce sciatica is by decreasing the stress on the nerves at the base of the spine by making sure that each spinal segment is positioned and moving as it should be.

Exercising, along with chiropractic adjustments, is also paramount in the treatment of sciatica. Chiropractic is great for taking stress off the nervous system and helping spinal flexibility, but doing core exercises will help keep your lower back strong and supportive between adjustments at the beginning of treatment and long into the future when you’re maintaining your spinal health.

If your case needs further investigation, our chiropractors at Brisbane Natural Health will help to guide you in the right direction so you can address the issue in a timely manner.

Dr Beau Billett – Bachelor of Applied Science (Chiropractic), Masters of Clinical Chiropractic

Balinese Massage

Prepare yourself for a dynamic, sensory experience.

Balinese massage is ancient traditional form of deep remedial massage and is designed to work almost every muscle in the body. It can last from an hour to two hours, depending on the patient’s specific areas of concern. This technique combines the best holistic techniques from several different cultures, such as China and India, and emphasises the importance of bringing the body into balance.

Balinese massage promotes the flow of blood, oxygen and energy throughout the body via several techniques; the result is the relaxation of body and mind. The techniques used during the massage appointment include shiatsu acupressure movements, such as press-point and palm/finger pressure, and standard massage techniques like kneading, sliding, short and long exploration.

This massage goes deep into the muscle tissue. The acupressure helps to relax the muscles, stimulates the body’s ability to heal itself, and relieves pain and tension. The reflexology works on the feet, hands, ears and indirectly addresses organ problems away from the point of pressure.

The use of warm essential oils and strong scents helps to relieve stress, relax the muscles and soothe the mind. Different kinds of oils can be used for different problems. The therapist can decide which is the best oil to use after discussion with the patient and their particular issues.

The final result will be a release of deeply tense and knotted muscles. It is perfect on achy joints and muscle strains, and especially beneficial for sporting injuries.

5 Common Causes of Back Pain

Back pain is one of the most common ailments people visit our chiropractors and massage therapists for. Here is our chiropractor Dr. Beau’s 5 most commonly seen causes of back pain.

1. Lifting injuries.

Poor lifting technique is by far one of the most common causes of back pain I see in the clinic. Lifting objects, heavy or not, with poor posture and lifting technique, is a recipe for disaster. Just like any other joint in the body, you can sprain and strain the ligaments and tendons in your back, irritate the joint capsules or worse still cause a disc injury. All of which can lead to stress on your spinal nerves.

Some tips to avoid lifting injuries:

  • Get help lifting when available, especially for heavy objects or anything greater than 20% of your body weight.
  • Bend through knees and hips, keeping the back straight instead of bending at the waist.
  • Tense your core and abdominal muscles.
  • Avoid any twisting or pivoting whilst lifting. Change direction by moving your feet, not twisting at the waist

2. Posture related pain – not sitting right

Humans have not evolved to sit for long periods of time. That includes time sitting at a desk, in a car, on the couch, at the dinner table and so on. If you add all the time you spend sitting each day, for some it can really amount to a huge chunk of your day. So if we are going to be sitting, we should at the very least be doing it properly.

  • Sit with your backside in the corner of the chair.
  • Use the backrest and avoid leaning on your desk as you work. This takes stress off your discs.
  • Take breaks every hour or so to stand up, stretch, and reposition yourself to correct your posture.
  • Avoid crossing your legs, which misaligns the spine

3. Stress

Stress can take many forms; emotional, physical/mechanical and dietary/chemical, but in almost everyone, when we get too stressed, we develop muscle tension and stress on the nervous system. Most commonly noticed in the upper back and shoulders, another area we can forget about when we are stressed is the low back. I can be very beneficial to take some time out after your busy day to unwind and do a few stretches before retiring for the evening. Being mindful of your stress goes a long way to realising and addressing those tight spots we develop when under the pump.

4. Daily activities.

This one is often related to lifting injuries. Especially when in a rush, tasks such as doing the laundry, gardening or doing the dishes for example, can easily cause back pain if attention is not paid to how we are positioning ourselves and whether or not we are engaging our core abdominal muscles. Even twisting to get out of a car has been known to cause disc injuries. To avoid any injuries be sure to stay mindful of the task at hand and to engage your core muscles. This takes practice and can be achieved by imagining that you are sucking your belly button to your spine and ‘tucking’ your backside down. Certain types of exercises, such as Pilates, are designed to get you using your core muscles more effectively.

5.Weekend Warriors

This is referring to that game of football you decided to have with your mates on the weekend without any training, or those 18 holes of golf without any stretching afterwards or the massive mountain trek where you pulled up so sore you could barely move the next day. Yes, the most common cause of acute back injury I see in clinic is the weekend warriors doing athletic activities without athletic training or recovery. There’s no reason to say you can’t exercise and do something a bit adventurous on the weekends, however know your limits. Take into account your overall fitness, any training you’ve been doing, and make sure to warm up and stretch properly afterwards.

 

Need help with back pain? Chiropractic is clinically proven to help with back pain. Call reception on 07 3367 0337 to make an appointment.