Any casual observer can see that life moves in cycles. Step outside, look at the sky, and watch the moon as it waxes and wanes night after night. Dip your toes in the ocean at Wrightsville Beach, and observe the tide rolling in and out. Even our bodies are ruled by cycles. This is most true for women, who expect their periods to arrive each month, right on schedule.
For some women, however, that cycle becomes interrupted. And just as the earth would suffer consequences if the moon didn’t wane or the tide didn’t come in, the absence of a regular period – known as amenorrhea – is a condition that must be addressed as soon as possible.
Amenorrhea is the absence of a period in a woman of reproduction age, for reasons not associated with pregnancy or lactation. Amenorrhea falls into two categories: Primary Amenorrhea, in which a woman doesn’t begin menstruation by the age of 16; and Secondary Amenorrhea, in which menstruation ceases for more than three months, usually due to hormonal and/or lifestyle factors. It’s this secondary category that we’ll focus on, because it’s the one that acupuncture can help treat.
While not having to deal with a certain monthly visitor might sound nice in theory – especially in the summer, when bathing suits and shorts are the official wardrobe – amenorrhea is actually a serious condition that can have lasting consequences. In addition to missing a period, other symptoms of Secondary Amenorrhea can include:
- Swollen breasts
- Vision problems
- Being very thirsty
- Goiter, an enlarged thyroid gland
- Darkening skin
Perhaps most concerning, however, is that amenorrhea can lead to fertility problems – difficulty conceiving, and pregnancy complications. It can also raise the risk of developing osteoporosis later in life.
While both Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and Western medicine seek to restart the period and restore a normal cycle, their methods are very different. Western medicine often recommends artificial hormones to trick the body into thinking balance has been restored. TCM, on the other hand, stimulates the body through Chinese herbs and acupuncture treatments in order to regulate the body’s naturally-occurring hormones and restore natural hormone function. In many cases and studies, TCM has proven to be a safe and effective treatment for amenorrhea and other conditions related to menstruation.
For cases of amenorrhea, acupuncturists seek first to restore and unblock the flow of Qi – that is, the life force that flows through each of us. Because amenorrhea is a condition related to blood flow, acupuncturists focus their treatment on organs associated with blood flow, including the spleen, kidney, and liver. By focusing on these meridians, Qi can be restored, and that important monthly visitor will show up once more.
If you’ve been missing your period for more than three months, call Acupuncture Associates to schedule an appointment today.