Acupuncture in Santa Monica, Los Angeles

Dysmenorrhea

What is Dysmenorrhea?

More than half of all women suffer from dysmenorrhea (cramps), a dull or throbbing pain that usually centers in the lower mid-abdomen, radiating toward the lower back or thighs. Menstruating women of any age can experience cramps. While the pain may be only mild for some women, others experience severe discomfort that can significantly interfere with everyday activities for several days each month.

Dysmenorrhea may be caused by endometriosis, fibroids, or just irregular periods among other causes. It is believed that dysmenorrhea occurs when hormone-like substances called “prostaglandins” produced by uterine tissue trigger strong muscle contractions in the uterus during menstruation. Experts say that cramps may also be related to other things (such as genetics, stress, and different body types) in addition to prostaglandins.

Natural solutions: dietary recommendations to ease cramps include increasing fiber in the form of complex carbohydrates while cutting down on fat, red meat, and dairy products. Smoking has also been found to worsen cramps. Recent research suggests that vitamin B supplements, primarily vitamin B6 in a complex, magnesium, and fish oil supplements (omega-3 fatty acids) may also help relieve cramps.

Acupuncture and Chinese herbs are very popular and extremely effective alternative treatments for cramps. Acupuncture tends to lower proinflammatory prostaglandins and increase endorphins in the blood. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews (2008) found promising evidence for the use of Chinese herbal medicinals in reducing menstrual pain in the treatment of dysmenorrhea, compared to conventional medicine such as NSAIDs (e.g. Advil) and oral contraceptive pills.