TCM for Managing Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS)

By Pacific College - December 26, 2014

Premenstrual syndrome, or PMS, is a condition that affects millions of women yet Western medicine has yet to provide a conclusive solution for.  The term “premenstrual syndrome” was first coined in the early 1930s.  It refers to a set of symptoms that are associated with, or can be directly attributed, to the menstrual period.  These symptoms usually appear a week or two from the onset of the menses and can last anywhere from 4 to 10 days. 

PMS ranges from a variety of physical and emotional symptoms, which can include:

  • Breast pain and tenderness
  • Headaches
  • Abdominal bloating
  • Nausea or dizziness
  • Restlessness
  • Inability to sleep well
  • General fatigue
  • Depression and unexplained sadness
  • Confusion and forgetfulness
  • Irritability and anxiety

Women who use conventional medical treatment for their PMS are often prescribed drugs or therapy to treat one or multiple symptoms, usually the most problematic ones.  They are not given treatment for other symptoms, particularly if they are considered manageable.  This is because symptoms of PMS appear differently for every woman and as a result, the syndrome as a whole is simply ignored or overlooked.

With Traditional Chinese Medicine or TCM, premenstrual symptoms are considered as patterns.  These patterns are studied closely and are traced to specific pathways or meridians in the body and related internal organs in order to treat the root cause of the problem and not just the symptom.  Depending on the list of complaints, the pattern is discovered and the deficiency is diagnosed.  Corresponding corrective measures are then prescribed.

Methods of treatment

Acupuncture is a common treatment for women suffering from PMS.  Fine needles are inserted into specific meridian points in the body to relieve stagnant energy, increase circulation and restore balance.  It is an effective method to treat pain and promote relaxation.

Herbal remedies are a major component of TCM.  As treatment for PMS, herbs are carefully chosen for their specific effects on the reproductive functions of women.  The herb called dang gui, for example, is commonly prescribed for its ability to regulate menstrual cycles and relieve cramps. 

Specific herbs are also carefully chosen depending on the diagnosed deficiency patterns in the patient.  If the pattern deficiency is found to be in the heart or blood, herbs such as jujubee and biota seeds are used.  If PMS is traced to the stagnation of the liver qi pattern, the herb buplerum or chai hu is prescribed.

Massage therapy
There are different types of massages that can be used to relieve the symptoms of PMS.  Reflexology, for example, focuses on specific points in the body in order to encourage better blood circulation and bring on relief, while basic massages may be used to complement the abovementioned treatments and induce relaxation and rest.

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