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Painful or heavy periods

Most women have some pain during periods. The pain is usually mild, but in about 1 in 10 women the pain is severe enough to affect day-to-day activities. The pain can be so severe that they are unable to go to school or work. In medical terms, period pain is called dysmenorrhoea.

Primary dysmenorrhoea is the most common type of painful periods. This is where there is no underlying problem of the uterus (womb) or pelvis. It often occurs in teenagers and women in their 20s.

Secondary dysmenorrhoea means that the pain is caused by a problem of the uterus or pelvis. This is less common, and is more likely to occur in women in their 30s and 40s.

In primary dysmenorrhoea the cause is not clear. What is thought to happen is that normal body chemicals called prostaglandins build up in the lining of the uterus. Prostaglandins help the uterus to contract and shed the lining of the uterus during a period. In women with period pain there seems to be a build-up of too many prostaglandins, or the uterus may be extra sensitive to the prostaglandins. This may cause the uterus to contract too hard, which reduces the blood supply to the uterus. This can lead to pain.

The main symptom is a cramping pain in the lower abdomen. Often, the first few periods are painless and period pain may only develop 6-12 months after you have started your periods. The pain may spread to the lower back, or to the top of your legs and usually starts as the bleeding starts, but it may start up to a day before. The pain usually lasts 12-24 hours, but lasts 2-3 days in some cases. It can vary with each period, with some months being worse than others.

Acupuncture is excellent at reducing the pain and severe cramping that is associated with period pain, improving blood flow and reducing clotting. Acupuncture also acts as an analgesic by increasing levels of endorphins in the blood. During treatment we will take into account your full menstrual history, including the length of the cycle, the nature and severity of the pain and the time it occurs.

Changes to your diet may also help reduce some of your symptoms and our nutritionist will be happy to advise you.

Menorrhagia is the name given to very heavy periods. The amount of blood that is lost during a woman’s period varies from person to person, with some women experiencing more blood loss than others. Menorrhagia can occur by itself or in combination with other symptoms, such as menstrual pain or dysmenorrhoea.

Menorrhagia is defined as excessive or very heavy bleeding that occurs over several consecutive menstrual cycles. Heavy bleeding does not necessarily mean that there is anything seriously wrong, but it can affect a woman physically, emotionally and socially, and can cause disruption to everyday life.  

If your periods are causing disruption to your everyday life, or they are heavier than usual, you should speak to your doctor about it. If you feel that you are using an unusually high number of tampons or pads, experience flooding through to your clothes or bedding, or you need to use tampons and towels together, it is a good indication that your blood loss is excessive.

Acupuncture is an excellent natural treatment for menorrhagia. Acupuncture can help to regulate the production of follicle stimulating and luteinizing hormones, helping to regulate your period. A nutritionist can further assist you in lifestyle changes that may be affecting your cycle as well as other natural medicines and foods that might be helpful for your particular condition.