Pain shortly before and during the period, or dysmenorrhoea, is due to painful cramps of the uterus. As every pain, it has two components: the physical and the psychological. The physical part is a series of events that have not been fully elucidated. It is probably related to the increased production of substances from the uterine endometrium (prostaglandin F2a) and from the pituitary of the brain (anti-diuretic hormone), which all cause vasoconstriction in the uterine muscle and therefore reduced oxygenation. Due to this condition, local substances (leukotrienes, anaerobic metabolites) are produced and sensitise the nerves, which send the painful stimulus to the brain. At the same time, for many of these women, the central nervous system is in such a way regulated, that makes them more sensitive to less painful stimulus. The psychological component is the degree that the brain allows this condition to affect other activities and emotion.
Typical painkillers only affect the physical component and have many side effects. Acupuncture acts therapeutically, both in the physical cause of pain and in the psychological background of discomfort. The good news is that after about 10 sessions, the alleviating result tends to be long-term and to prevent the reappearance of dysmenorrhea for months to years.
It sounds magical, but it is not. Many studies on the subject have drawn the following conclusions on how acupuncture works in dysmenorrhea:
- Regulates neuroendocrine functions and expression of receptors in the hypothalamus-pituitary-ovarian axis (Liu 2009; Yang 2008)
- Works to inhibit uterine muscle contractions as it increases nitric oxide levels, which have muscle relaxant activity (Wang 2009)
- It has relaxing action (Samuels 2008), altering brain biochemistry as it reduces serotonin (Zhou 2008) and increases endorphins (Han, 2004) and neuropeptide Y (Lee 2009)
- Reduces inflammation by promoting the release of vascular and immunomodulatory factors (Zijlstra 2003; Kavoussi 2007)
- Changes the way the brain understands the pain.
- Increases the blood circulation of the uterus by regulating the autonomic nervous system.
- Turns off trigger points on the abdominal muscles, sore points along a contracted muscle bundle that may be responsible for the abdominal pain associated with the period.
Typical painkillers only affect the physical component and have many side effects. Acupuncture acts therapeutically, both in the physical cause of pain and in the psychological background of discomfort.
Chinese and traditional acupuncturists would say that acupuncture owes its spectacular results to the normalization of energy flow through channels called meridians. A Western physician needs more information to be convinced of the usefulness of acupuncture. This is provided by the rich scientific literature and his/her results when applying it to his/her patients. In conclusion let’s agree to the fact that to achieve optimal health, it is necessary to reach the homeostasis of the organism, or to balance the yin with the yang.