TCM, or Traditional Chinese Medicine, focuses on one’s wholesome well-being. It’s a different school of thought from western medicine, which treats illnesses and symptoms in isolation. We are used to turning to western medicine to relieve our painful menstrual cramps (dysmenorrhea) when it happens, but given the… wholesome nature of menstrual symptoms (i.e. anything and everything can happen), maybe you could give TCM a try! Below are some easy first steps you can take in incorporating TCM into your menstrual health.
In menstrual health, pain occurs if you either have an excess 实 (shi) or deficiency 虚 (xu) condition. An excess condition could be due to 气(qi) stagnation, blood stagnation or accumulation of cold, while a deficiency condition could be due to blood deficiency. Each cause has slightly different symptoms, and different diagnoses will prompt your acupuncturist to apply treatment to different points.
Just for your information, you could match your symptoms to guess your particular cause of pain, but of course do consult your TCM doctor for a final diagnosis.
- Menstrual cramping and pain (sharp pain)
- Heavy and dark/red-coloured flow with blood clots
- Dark urine
- Dark/red tongue colour
- Menstrual cramping and pain (dull pain)
- Scant and dark coloured flow with blood clots
- Cold body
- Pale tongue colour
This is just a basic list for general information, so if you want to find out more, book an appointment with any TCM practitioner or acupuncturist near you!
2. Self Acupressure
Self acupressure is a much simpler alternative to acupuncture, and an added bonus if you are afraid of needles. Simply look for these particular spots and apply pressure with your fingers. This is my personal favourite because it is so simple and painfully satisfying!
This first point is the Valley of Harmony, located in the web between your thumb and index finger. Apply steady pressure using your other hand until it is sore for 2 minutes, then switch hands. This is great because you can do it literally anywhere – at your desk, on public transport or even simply while walking.
Another point is the Great Surge point, in the web between your big and second toe. Similarly, apply steady pressure until sore for 2 minutes, then switch to the other foot.
Putting pressure on these points promotes the flow of qi and ultimately soothes menstrual pains.
3. TCM Foods
The kinds of food that you should take according to TCM thought also depend on the kind of menstrual condition that you have. These are pretty straightforward and more towards home remedies that you can do for yourself. You can find more home remedy ideas here, and also read up more on how Dang Gui (a TCM herb) in particular can really help with your menstrual cramps!
- Parsley juice
- Red meat
- Sweet/rich foods
- Dill, basil
- Black beans
- Raw and cold foods
Additionally, you can try the benefits of Dang Gui, which we have covered here.
4. Qi Gong Exercises
An effective qi gong exercise for menstrual cramps is called: White Crane Twists Its Body To Look Up, which is a movement that is part of the Eight Treasures Qi Gong. This movement is said to promote the flow of qi and blood while strengthening uterine muscles, ultimately helping to regulate menstrual health.
- Starting from a bent over position, hold your left ankle with your right hand and place your left hand on your left knee.
- Inhaling in, bend your right knee and twist your torso upwards so that your eyes are looking at the ceiling/sky. Remember to keep your left leg straight!
- Exhaling out, return to a neutral position with your body weight distributed evenly across both feet. Put both hands on your knees.
- Repeat on the other side.
These are 4 simple ways you could try TCM to help with dysmenorrhea, or period cramps. Most of TCM falls on the natural side of the types of remedies, so I say it is pretty safe to give them a try. Plus, there’s nothing to lose in trying them! Unless of course, you decide to take off your shoes in public to put pressure on your Great Surge point, or suddenly break out in a qi gong exercise. Let us know if TCM has been effective for you! If it hasn’t, you could always turn to heat as a source of comfort for your cramps.