Dysmenorrhea means that women have periodic pains during or prior to, or after menstrual periods in the lower abdomen caused by disruption of contraction within the uterus as a result of excess bad prostaglandins. For some women, it can be severe enough to interfere with everyday activities for a few days every month. This is a common health problem for women all over the world.
Menstrual pain will take the form of cramping, lower abdominal pain, lower back pain or a pulling sensation in the inner thighs. Pain is often accompanied by headaches, dizziness, vomiting, nausea, diarrhea or constipation.
Dysmenorrhea can be primary or secondary. Primary dysmenorrhea involves no physical abnormality and usually begins within three years after you begin menstruating. Primary dysmenorrhea factors include allergic reactions, unhealthy diet, excessive estrogen, overweight, smoking, and stress. For primary dysmenorrhea, many experts believe that prostaglandins, hormone-like substances involved in pain and inflammation, trigger the uterine muscle contractions. Secondary dysmenorrhea is caused by gynecological disease, like endometriosis, fibromas, and pelvic inflammatory disease (PID).
In Chinese medicine, pain is the symptom of a deeper problem. The theory is that the root cause of pain can be either an excess pattern or a deficiency pattern. The blockage of Qi and blood, or the retention of heat, dampness or wind, are believed to be excess patterns. Deficiency of Qi and blood, or imbalance of kidney and liver are believed to be deficiency patterns. Chinese medicine practitioners use acupuncture and herbal medicine through one or a few of the following strategies: expelling wind, dissipating cold, eliminating dampness, moving Qi, invigorating blood, nourishing the blood, clearing the heat, and tonifying the kidneys.
A review, Acupuncture for Primary Dysmenorrhea, is published at Cochrane Database Syst Rev, 2011. The goal was to determine the efficacy and safety of acupuncture in the treatment of primary dysmenorrhea. Ten trials were included in the review with data reporting on 944 participants. Six trials reported on acupuncture (n = 673) and four trials (n = 271) reported on acupressure. There was an improvement in pain relief from acupuncture compared with a placebo.
Ginger is most commonly used in Chinese medicine in treating dysmenorrhea for a long period of time due to its stimulated function of anti-inflammation, spasmolytic, and circulation. Ginger helps to inhibit cyclo-oxygenase and lipoxygenase enzymes that cause menstrual cramps. Peach kernel is also commonly used in Chinese medicine for treating dysmenorrhea.