How can acupuncture help with irregular periods?
It’s thought that as many as a quarter of all women experience some form of chronic menstrual issue or disorder that results in disruptive and unpleasant physical and emotional symptoms.
The most common issues include heavy or erratic periods (including missed periods) but also include less common problems such as an absence of periods altogether. All of these have formal names, which I’ll be discussing a little further on.
But the one thing they all have in common is that the symptoms they cause can be very distressing for the women involved, and it’s often the case that clinical solutions never quite manage to fully address them.
Very few of the patients I see have a ‘perfect’ 28-day menstrual cycle – in fact, while there are women who may be able to set their clock (or perhaps calendar) by the arrival of their period, most women find that’s not the case – and some degree of fluctuation is far more common.
There can be simple and straightforward reasons for this loss of regularity. It’s common, for example, in women who have just finished taking birth control medication, and the irregularity can last for several months. But others see erratic patterns in their cycle for no obvious reason.
A key consequence of menstrual disorders – quite apart from the emotional and/or physical impact – is that it can be very difficult to become pregnant, which simply adds to the distress that women may feel when faced with problems relating to their periods.
Luckily, acupuncture is effective in treating menstrual irregularity and can play a key role in helping to restore order to your cycle.
What sort of menstrual issues can be helped by acupuncture?
Broadly speaking, there are 7 distinctive problems that I see in patients.
- Fluctuating cycles – This includes cycles that are shorter than 28 days and periods that arrive anywhere up to 9 days earlier than expected, as well as cycles that extend beyond 30 days for at least 3 consecutive months.
- Metrorrhagia – these are periods that are unpredictably irregular. They may be early or late, and there is no obvious or identifiable pattern to the sequence. Metrorrhagia tends to be normal after the first period in life, and also before entering menopause.
- Menorrhagia – this refers to heavy periods that happen within a normal frequency and have a normal duration, but which are characterised by higher-than-average blood loss, requiring frequent changes of sanitary products.
- Dysmenorrhea – Cycles are characterised by pain before, during, and after menstruation. Common pain includes cramping in the abdomen, back and legs and may be severe enough to cause other physical symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, or fainting.
- Amenorrhea – This is the absence of periods, and amenorrhea is categorised in two ways. Primary amenorrhea refers to a woman who has not had a period by the time she turns 18, while secondary amenorrhea refers to a woman whose periods have stopped for at least 3 months. Bear in mind that amenorrhea is a temporary common condition following childbirth or during pregnancy. And let’s not forget, of course, that it is also one indication of pregnancy!
- Spotting – this is usually seen as mid-cycle bleeding. If you believe you have this condition but haven’t had it diagnosed, you should see your GP or other health practitioner to review your symptoms and reach a formal diagnosis. Spotting can be a symptom of other conditions, so a GP consultation is recommended in order to be sure.
- Dysfunctional uterine bleeding – also known as abnormal uterine bleeding, this refers to periods that routinely demonstrate unpredictable behaviour. These behaviours include:
- Periods that start heavy, become light, and then become heavy again
- Periods that start, then stop, and then restart.
- Changes in the frequency of periods
- Changes in the duration of the cycle
- Any other ‘abnormal’ pattern within the cycle
These patterns and behaviours may differ from month to month and are usually related to hormone imbalance, but there are other conditions that can trigger similar symptoms.
What can cause menstrual irregularity?
While some menstrual problems are symptoms of a deeper medical issue, such as a thyroid problem (and it’s important to see your GP to rule that out) it’s also true that the usual suspects – stress, lifestyle choices, poor sleep, emotional balance, and anxiety – are common culprits when women find their cycle changes suddenly.
How does acupuncture help with menstrual irregularity?
Acupuncture works by restoring balance to the body’s natural healing energy. Our bodies were not designed to operate effectively in the modern world – and over time lifestyle and emotional factors slowly overwhelm and block our natural energy.
This can manifest in many different ways, from musculoskeletal pain to a general decline in the immune system, as well as the menstrual issues that I have outlined here.
Acupuncture uses superfine, painless needles inserted at strategic points on the body to stimulate our healing energy and get our bodies functioning efficiently once again.
Many patients see or feel an immediate improvement in their general health and wellbeing, but it may take several sessions to really see an improvement in the physical symptoms you’re experiencing.
And because acupuncture is an holistic treatment, it also has the benefit of treating issues you may not even be aware you had.
If you’d like to learn more about our acupuncture for menstrual disorders and the part it can play in helping to restore normality to your cycle, please get in touch for an informal, friendly chat – I’d love to hear from you.