What is Traditional Chinese Medicine?
Practiced for more than four thousand years, Traditional Chinese Medicine, or “TCM” for short, is one of the oldest medical systems in the world. It combines several healing modalities such as Acupuncture, Chinese herbal therapy, Cupping, Tui-Na massage and Moxibustion. TCM focuses on restoring and maintaining balance and harmony in the body’s energy systems. The core principle behind treatment is to heal the patient as a whole, treating the root cause of the illness rather than just its symptoms.
Women’s Health and Chinese Medicine
Classical texts of Traditional Chinese Medicine relate women’s growth, development, reproduction and the aging process to her Kidney’s energetic system. This energetic system, consisting of the Kidney’s Yin, Yang, Qi (pronounced “chee”) and Essence, moves in seven year cycles where every seventh year marks a transitional point in a women’s maturation process. For example: at age 7 they say a girl’s Kidney Qi starts to strengthen, at 14 the energy of her Kidneys peak causing the onset of puberty, between the ages of 21 and 28 her Kidney’s energy flourishes making these years the best time to conceive, and as she further matures she will begin see a gradual decline in the Kidney at 35 years old until she reaches the age of menopause at 49.
Treating women’s health issues start with understanding the movement of this energetic system and identifying any imbalances in the body that may impair the Kidney’s natural ability to manage women’s growth, reproduction and maturation process.
So how can Acupuncture and TCM help women’s health? When the energetic systems of our body are in balance we have within ourselves the natural ability to fight illness and ward of disease. Therefore gynecological disorders, or any disease or illness for that matter, stems from imbalances in the body’s energetic systems. What causes these imbalances? – Stress, poor diet, lack of sleep, congenital deficiencies, past illnesses or injuries just to name a few. Therefore the goal of TCM and acupuncture treatment is to identify the root cause of the illness, effectively restoring balance to all energetic systems of the body. Ultimately this is the strength and benefit behind treating disease with acupuncture and TCM: TCM treats the patient as a whole, not just the signs and symptoms of the disease. Treatments are longer lasting and more effective since a body in balance can fight disease naturally and on its own.
Here are some common gynecological disorders that can be treated by Acupuncture and TCM:
- Menstrual disorders
- Infertility or threatened miscarriage
- Menopausal symptoms
- Morning sickness, labour support and preparation
- Emotional or stress related disorders
- Sexual disorders or low libido
- Fibromyalgia, Fibroids, PCOS, POF
Women’s Fertility and Chinese Medicine
Chinese Medicine views the Kidney’s energetic system as a central component to women’s health and well-being especially when it comes to fertility and pregnancy. The importance of the Kidney’s role in women’s health begins early in life as her congenital Essence (our basic constitutional health passed down to us from our parents) is stored in the Kidneys. Later in life during a woman’s furtive years she relies on the health of her Kidneys and its Essence to facilitate conception and to ensure a smooth pregnancy upon conceiving. Therefore treatment of infertility and pregnancy disorders involves strengthening the Kidney’s energetic system using acupuncture and herbal medicine.
Here are some of the common fertility and pregnancy disorders that can be treated by Acupuncture and TCM:
- Age and decreased ovarian reserve
- Ovulatory disorders
- Hormonal imbalances, Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)
- Tubal obstruction or adhesions, Endometriosis
- Early menopause
- Threatened or habitual miscarriage
In addition, TCM and Acupuncture is an effective adjunct therapy for women undergoing ART (Assisted Reproductive Technologies) such as IVF (In Vitro Fertilization). Receiving acupuncture treatments just before and soon after the ART procedure will help strengthen the woman’s body and her ability to conceive and hold the pregnancy.
Women’s Menopause and Chinese Medicine
Menopause is a natural part of a woman’s lifecycle. Traditional Chinese Medicine states that a woman’s growth, development and aging process occurs in seven year stages, where every seventh year marks an important transitional point in a woman’s life. A woman’s menopausal stage occurs at the age of 49 (7×7), at which time she will naturally stop menstruating as her Kidney’s energetic system begins to wane. According to Chinese medicine a woman should pass through her menopausal years without experiencing any of the common signs and symptoms that we’ve come to readily associate menopause with such as hot flashes and swings in emotion. In fact, it’s interesting to note that there isn’t even a word for menopause in traditional Chinese medical vocabulary. Menopause or menopausal symptoms are essentially a western concept.
As with many other gynecological disorders, TCM treatment of menopausal symptoms begins with the Kidneys – in particular the balancing of the energies of the Kidney’s Yin and Yang. Acupuncture and herbal medicine are typically used together for effective treatment.
Below are some menopausal symptoms that can be treated by Acupuncture and TCM:
- Hot flashes
- Night sweats
- Emotional imbalances
- Vaginal dryness
- Loss of libido
- Dizziness, tinnitus
Women’s Menstrual Cycle and Acupuncture
Painful periods are not normal! It’s funny how women have come to accept that pain should be a normal part of our menstrual period. On the contrary – there is nothing normal about it! According to Traditional Chinese Medicine a normal menstrual period should be without any pain including: abdominal cramps, breast tenderness, migraine headaches, or lower back pain. In addition, a normal period should be absent of blood clots, water retention, mood swings or changes in appetite.
So what does a normal period look like? A woman’s menstrual period should arrive approximately every 28 days, blood flow should last anywhere between 5 and 7 days with sufficient volume and ease of flow. Our periods should come and go without incident or pain.
Then what causes menstrual disorders? As with most women’s health issues, the Kidney plays a large role in healthy menstruation but so does the Liver. According to TCM, the Liver’s energetic system ensures a proper volume of menstrual blood and facilitates its ease of flow at the time of bleeding. The Liver also aids the Kidney in the timing of our cycle ensuring our period arrives every 28 days.
How can TCM and Acupuncture help menstrual disorders?
The main goal is to balance the energetic systems of the Liver and Kidney. There may be some other underlying issues affecting these two systems that will also need to be addressed. As with all TCM and Acupuncture treatments, we begin with observing the patient as a whole, taking into account her past history and lifestyle habits, any physical or emotional stressors she’s currently dealing with, and then finally determining the root cause (or causes) of her disorder. In TCM we treat the root cause of illness, not just its signs and symptoms. This approach benefits the woman’s overall health often resulting in the treatment of other seemingly unrelated issues.
Some menstrual disorders that TCM and Acupuncture can treat:
- Dysmenorrhea (painful periods)
- Amenorrhea (absence of menstrual periods)
- Irregular periods
- Heavy periods
- Migraines related to menstruation
- PMS symptoms, changes in appetite, mood swings