Acupuncture for Women’s Health
Western medicine’s ideas of women’s health are based on the Cartesian model of humans as machines. A French mathematician and philosopher, Descartes in the 17th century described humans as machines and likened a healthy person to a well-made clock, composed of parts that can break down and be replaced or fixed. In an attempt to better understand this complex machine, effort was made to examine and study increasingly smaller parts of the machine, as that would somehow lead to a greater understanding of the whole. Women’s health from a western medicine perspective became increasingly fragmented and specialized. In Chinese medicine it is important to step back and examine the whole. Acupuncture and herbs intervene at the level of the whole human, treating the root cause of symptoms.
In the late Qing Dynasty in the 1800’s, Western medicine was introduced to China and integrated with Chinese Medicine. Since 1949 an integrative approach to women’s health has been particularly emphasized. For example it is not uncommon in China to use acupuncture during a breech birth, difficult delivery, or caesarian section. Chinese herbs are routinely used to treat gynecological disorders such as fibroids and pelvic pain. Below are a few conditions that Chinese Medicine can help.
Endometriosis and Pelvic Pain
Treating painful conditions can be complex for Eastern and Western medicine. Often there is not one single answer to relieve pain, and a multidisciplinary approach is necessary. The patient’s level of pain is not always in direct correlation with the medical tests and findings. Patients can be in extreme pain when all tests are negative. Chinese medicine views endometriosis and pelvic pain as stagnation of qi and blood, essential to women’s health. By moving the qi and blood, pain is reduced. However, if a proper flow of qi and blood do not continue, the pain will come back. Therefore, in addition to acupuncture and herbs, we believe it is important for the patient to make lifestyle changes that enhance our treatments and help maintain a smooth free flow of qi and blood.
Having PMS does not mean just one thing. Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) covers a various range of physical and emotional symptoms that occur before a woman’s period. Each woman’s PMS is different. If irritability is the presenting complaint, our point selection will be different than if extreme fatigue is the primary symptom. Some of the factors that can make PMS worse are emotional strain, overwork, and poor diet. We believe that along with acupuncture, it is important to help guide our patients to have health in these areas of their lives. This helps lay the groundwork for reduction and elimination of PMS, and is good for women’s health.
During menarche and months after menopause, it is normal to have irregular bleeding. When irregular bleeding is a chronic problem we look to the organ system of the Kidney and Liver. The Liver stores the blood and the Kidneys are responsible for the rhythmic ebb and flow of blood. If the Liver qi is too bound up, it will hold the blood. This stagnation limits a proper menstrual rhythm. The qi for menstrual flow originates from the Kidneys; when they are weak the body is without strength to maintain a regular menstrual cycle.
Menopause is a normal physiological transition that occurs due to depletion of the Kidney essence. One main complaint that women have about menopause is their hot flashes. These can go on for five to ten years after menopause. When we tonify the Kidney essence, hot flashes can be reduced. Many women start hormone replacement therapy (HRT) at menopause. Acupuncture and Chinese herbs are not in contradiction with HRT. Acupuncture and Chinese herbs can be safely used with HRT. Using a combination of the two therapies can make this natural transitory time in a woman’s life go smoothly.
Acupuncture can help with the fertility aspect of women’s health. See our page on Infertility for more information.