In Western Medicine it is not clear what causes painful period, however there are two known types – primary and secondary. Primary dysmenorrhea is cramping before and during menstruation and is associated with high levels of prostaglandin circulating in the body. Secondary dysmenorrhea is caused by a disorder of the reproductive organs and may be associated with endometriosis, fibroids and adenomyosis.
Western medicine treatment involves medication such as ibuprofen and paracetamol. Other treatment protocols include hot water bottles, relaxation techniques and self-massage.
Oriental Medicine views dysmenorrhea and other reproductive health conditions from a different perspective. One based on a balance of Ki, blood, Yin and Yang. Symptoms of period pain are often thought of existing due to an imbalance resulting in cold and stagnation of blood and Ki. Liver Stagnation, Blood Statis and Qi Stagnation are often common diagnoses for dysmenorrhea according to Oriental Medicine.
Oriental Medicine offers a toolbox full with methods and advice for supporting women with dysmenorrhea. Acupressure, acupuncture and moxibustion are just some of the treatment protocols that could be used.
Moxibustion is a therapeutic treatment routinely used in Oriental Medicine. The thermal nature along with potential chemical interactions of ‘moxa’ is believed to be an effective treatment for many conditions including dysmenorrhea. Moxa expels cold from the body and warms the meridians while stimulating blood flow and Ki, life force energy.
Studies on the use of moxibustion for dysmenorrhea has demonstrate long-lasting effects particularly for women with primary dysmenorrhea. In one study, moxibustion showed its therapeutic effect to be last for over 3 months beyond treatment and proved to be just as effective than the use of Non-Steroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs).
Moxa is made from mugwort, a native herb to Asia. The process of producing moxa punk involves drying the herb picked at optimal time during the summer months and storing appropriately to maximise its therapeutic benefits. Mugwort can be applied either directly or indirectly. In direct methods of application, moxa punk is formed into a cone and burned directly on the skin. Indirect methods of application may involve using ginger, garlic or salt between the cone and the skin, or using a moxa stick either above the skin or in a specially made box.
Mugwort has been used alongside acupuncture and acupressure in Asia for centuries. And has proven in many studies to be effective in treating menstrual pain. Warming the abdomen using moxibustion and applying moxa on specific points along the meridians is beneficial in improving the life of women with dysmenorrhea. It is a non-invasive method that can be used in conjunction with other therapies.
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Yang, M., Chen, X., Bo, L., Lao, L., Chen, J., Yu, S., Yu, Z., Tang, H., Yi, L., Wu, X., Yang, J., & Liang, F. (2017). Moxibustion for pain relief in patients with primary dysmenorrhea: A randomized controlled trial. PloS one, 12(2), e0170952. Viewed 21/02/2022 https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0170952