As a woman, you probably had to change your plans more than once because of your symptoms of premenstrual syndrome. Burdened by a varied group of physical and psychological symptoms, many women have a conflicted relationship with this aspect of their biology.
Acute pain, headaches, nausea, tension, mood swings, depression, and other symptoms affect up to 80% of women in the US, according to the American Academy of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. About 20-32% of all women have symptoms distressing enough to interfere with their daily lives, while 3-8% (2 million) of women report being disabled by severe PMS symptoms. The severity of PMS and menstrual pain is a leading cause of absenteeism in women under 30 and the reason for higher suicide rates in patients with depression.
Most women who are experiencing the signs of PMS or PMDD (premenstrual dysphoric disorder) are usually encouraged by doctors to seek out solutions such as over-the-counter diuretics or NSAIDs to help with the pain. Oral contraceptives or prostaglandin inhibitors are sometimes used to regulate hormone production, while antidepressants are given to women with severe psychological symptoms. The problem is, most of these alternatives only provide relief for a short while and are unable to prevent PMS from coming back again and again.
Mind-Body Therapies and Their Long-Lasting Beneficial Effects for PMS
Increasing evidence in the past decade has confirmed that women suffering from PMS and PMDD widely use complementary and alternative therapies to balance their hormones and relieve menstrual discomforts, and that is substantial proof of efficacy for mind-body approaches to these conditions.
One such approach is acupuncture. According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, the basic energetic imbalance that causes PMS is “liver qi congestion,” meaning that the qi’s free flow in the body is obstructed. Acupuncture, which involves inserting thin needles into specific areas of the skin, is used to eliminate energy blockages and stabilize hormonal fluctuations. Both the World Health Organization and the American Academy of Medical Acupuncture have recognized acupuncture as an effective treatment option for a range of conditions, some of which are associated with PMS, such as low back pain, insomnia, depression, headaches, infertility, and anxiety.
One study found that acupuncture provided relief from symptoms in 78% of female participants. Although Western doctors still don’t quite understand how it works, they believe acupuncture is able to increase blood circulation and elevate endorphin levels, which enhances mood and decreases pain. Most women with PMS undergoing acupuncture report relief from cramps, headaches, nausea, and insomnia within 24 hours after a session.
Research has also shown that nutrition plays an important role in alleviating PMS symptoms. The author of “A Physician’s Guide to Natural Health Products That Work” writes that, “Many women with (premenstrual syndrome) have high sugar and high dairy fat intakes, both of which lower magnesium values in the blood. Supplemental magnesium appears to be a necessity, particularly in persons who are getting little magnesium from their water.” PMS sufferers also exhibit deficiencies in calcium, zinc, and B-vitamins, and can often benefit significantly from healthy additions in their diet.
The diet of a PMS sufferer, according to nutritionists, should include foods that are rich in calcium, such as low-fat dairy, almonds, beans, and dark leafy greens. Fish and lean meat are also considered to be part of a well-balanced diet, along with healthy oils such as olive and vegetable oils. It’s recommended to eliminate all potential food allergens, such as gluten, soy, preservatives, and food additives, and trans-fatty acids found in commercial baked foods such as cookies, pastry, French fries, donuts, and margarine.
- Chiropractic Care
The central nervous system ensures that every cell, tissue, and organ in the body is functioning optimally. When the spine is not working properly due to misalignments of the bones, it can impair the nerves that direct and monitor the systems controlling bodily functions such as the reproductive and hormonal systems, resulting in heavy bleeding, severe cramping, and missed periods or infertility.
Although chiropractic care has not been shown to fix the way the female body responds to the hormonal changes preceding menstruation, several studies have shown it can help reduce and eliminate many of the PMS symptoms without the potential side effects of prescription drugs. Since the nerves in the lower part of the spine regulate all of the tissues in the lower abdomen, relieving pressure and irritation caused by subluxations can be tremendously helpful for PMS sufferers.
While traditional medication and treatment may be required for some patients with PMS, a lot of women can make a big impact on their suffering with these alternative therapies and certain lifestyle changes. However, every case is unique, and results vary greatly among sufferers, which is why it’s important to consult with a licensed and experienced chiropractor or acupuncturist in your area.
Your therapist is trained to locate and correct spinal misalignments so that nerves that exit your spine and travel throughout the body can resume their optimal level of functioning. You will also be given nutrition counseling and recommendations regarding certain lifestyle changes you can make to eliminate the disruptive effects of PMS and be able to resume your normal life.
About the Author
Dr. Marc Browner is the Founder of iChiropractic and Wellness in Naples, Florida. A graduate of the University of Florida in 1991, he earned his Doctor of Chiropractic degree from Life Chiropractic in 1995. In private practice since 1998, Dr. Browner is a member of the Florida Chiropractic Society, the Florida Chiropractic Association, and he attends continuing education seminars, classes, and workshops to remain abreast of the most current treatment methods and technological advances in the field.