Time for another fun discussion about bodily functions! I covered poop a few weeks ago, and now we're going to talk about periods. When you come into my office, you may notice that I will ask for a lot of info about the monthly curse. No fear, I don't have some sort of weird period fetish; I can learn an astounding amount about your overall health from details of your period. So don't be shy about full disclosure-there is nothing you can tell me that will disgust me. Clots, mucus, diarrhea with periods....I've heard it all. If you are shy about discussion of bodily fluids, take comfort from this: while I was a student, we had to take turns acting as the "patient" in front of the whole class. During our health intakes, we would sit in front of a classroom of our peers and get grilled on our bowel movements, urination, and periods (or prostate function.) I remember sitting there in front of the class talking about the size of my period clots without shame...if I could do that, you should have no problem discussing these issues in my private office!
The funny thing about periods is that women in this society have become complacent with pain. We think that it is "normal" to be in pain for a few days a month. Women only seem to visit acupuncturists for period relief when their pain is so severe it is debilitating. I have seen patients who could not work, who would pass out or vomit from the pain...and it was only when they reached this point that they would seek treatment.
But what about those women who haven't reached that point? I'll be honest: for years I would get my period two or three days a month and it would consist mostly of clots. On the first day, I would have to lie down for a few hours and medicate because the cramping was so intense. Then the cramps would pass and I would barely bleed for the next day or so...and I was happy about this. Compared to most women I knew, I was getting off easy. When period discussions came up, I would describe myself as one of the lucky ones who had a "normal" period, because I only had to spend half a day in bed and barely bled.
Guess what? This may be normal from the viewpoint of the average American woman, but any pain is a sign that something is wrong. This pain we experience once a month is the result of the blood and qi not flowing harmoniously, as it is meant to. Mild or severe, it is still stagnation, and this stagnation is an issue that can and should be treated. Menstrual pain shouldn't be viewed as an unavoidable part of being a woman, but as a symptom of imbalance that something can be done about.
Oh, and by the way...I also never went for acupuncture treatments for my period, because the few hours I spent in pain didn't bother me enough to make me go. But, I did start getting regular treatments simply because acupuncture feels good (and also because I was a poor grad student who could get treated for free.) And when was the last time I needed to spend half the day in bed due to cramps? I can't remember.