From needles to ear seeds, the ancient art of acupuncture as part of Traditional Chinese Medicine is known to alleviate everything from chronic pain to emotional distress. Could it also be the secret to managing pesky PMS symptoms? Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) is a common gynecological disorder which affects most women at some point in their lives. Some of the most common PMS symptoms are moodiness, sadness, sweet cravings, breast swelling, abdominal bloating, indigestion, water retention, headaches, fatigue and hormonal acne flare-ups, which can last anywhere from a few days to a few weeks (if you’re all too familiar, I feel you). The good news? Acupuncture may very well be one of the best healing modalities for the management of PMS. In addition to thousands of years of use in Chinese Medicine, modern studies are finding the science to back it up. One 2011 review from researchers at Kyung Hee University in Korea found that acupuncture was approximately 50 percent better at helping with PMS symptoms than all other treatment options, combined. Tina Howard LaC – TCM Practitioner, Licensed Acupuncturist and founder of the Encinitas–based Hummingbird Acupuncture – confirms: “Acupuncture is especially good at addressing hormonal imbalances, such as those causing PMS”.
According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, PMS occurs when the normal flow of Qi and blood throughout the body is disrupted by your cycle’s rise and fall of hormones, leading to Liver Qi stagnation which can instigate a range of uncomfortable symptoms as listed above. “Our goal with acupuncture treatment for PMS management is to remove any blockages within the body while helping to balance out hormonal fluctuations”, says Tina. To perform this ancient healing modality, a licensed acupuncturist will stimulate specific acupuncture points on meridian lines in the body to target the corresponding organs and systems experiencing stagnation, along with areas actively experiencing symptoms. An experienced practitioner will treat both the underlying cause and current symptoms for effective long-term and immediate relief. If acupuncture is not accessible to you for any reason, stimulating these points through acupressure DIY-style can act as an effective alternative. To try it out yourself, press each acupressure point firmly with your fingers for 60-90 seconds while breathing deeply. SPLEEN 6 – located approximately four fingers above the tip of the medial malleolus (read: above the ankle in the depression under the bone) – is one of the best acupuncture and acupressure points for alleviating menstrual cramps thanks to its direct connection with the uterus. Stimulation of this point promotes the flow of Qi in the pelvis, relaxes the liver, and can even help with bloating and digestion woes. Another key point, LIVER 3 – located on the foot between the first and second toes – is commonly used to move stagnant energy in the liver and can help soothe the feelings of irritability along with breast tenderness that often comes with PMS. According to Tina Howard, many patients experience significant relief of their PMS symptoms within hours, and some even report a less uncomfortable cycle the next go-around after one initial treatment. And if nothing else? Your time on the table should help calm the mind and reduce stress, leaving you deeply relaxed with less emotional turmoil post-needles.