It is estimated that more than 50% of women experience some degree of pain with their menses. This ranges from tolerable cramping to excruciating pain requiring the use of over the counter drugs such as Advil, Ibuprofen and Naproxen. Symptoms are often accompanied by headaches, diarrhea/constipation, nausea and fatigue to name a few. The conventional pharmaceutical treatment for menstrual pain is either the use of drugs to deal with the pain or hormonal birth control. Although these measures may seem effective, they function to mask the symptoms at hand but do not necessarily address the root cause(s) such as:
- Hormonal imbalance
- Excessive muscular and fascial tension of the structures surrounding and associated with the female reproductive system
- Uterine growths e.g. fibroids, ovarian cysts
- Scarring of the uterine wall(adhesions)
- Endometriosis- a condition where cells of the uterine lining migrate and grow outside of the uterus.
- Pelvic inflammatory disease(PID)-infection of the fallopian tubes which can spread to the ovaries, uterus and cervix
- Lifestyle and dietary habits- stress, inactivity and poor diet
So how can osteopathy help?
Osteopathy helps to relieve excessive tensions which can contribute to menstrual dysfunction. Treatment is directed mainly at the head/neck, lower back, sacrum, pelvic floor muscles (externally with clothing on), the diaphragm, digestive system and the liver. When these structures move freely without restriction, the propensity for pain to exist is diminished. In the longer term, this translates to a reduced reliance on medications, which can have damaging effects to organs with long-term use.
It is advisable to support treatments with some lifestyle and dietary changes, mainly:
- Clean up our diet: minimise or eliminate processed foods and refined carbohydrates e. g candy, chocolates, cookies, chips, pop etc.
- Eating your veggies
- Increasing activity levels
- Supplementing with Magnesium- it acts as a muscle relaxant
- Red raspberry leaf tea (daily)- promotes relaxation of the uterine walls.
Supporting treatments such as acupuncture, naturopathy or traditional Chinese medicine may also be beneficial in some cases.