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 the treatment is to heal the patient, treating the root cause of the illness rather than just its symptoms.
Classical texts of Traditional Chinese Medicine relate women’s growth, development, reproduction and aging process to her Kidney’s energetic system. This energetic system, consisting of the Kidney’s Yin, Yang, Qi (pronounced “chee”) and Essence, move 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 to 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 starts with understanding this energetic system’s movement 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 off disease. Therefore gynecological disorders, or any disease or illness, stem from imbalances in the body’s energetic systems. What causes these imbalances? – Stress, poor diet, lack of sleep, congenital deficiencies, and 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 body’s energetic systems. Ultimately this is the strength and benefits 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.
Chinese Medicine views the Kidney’s energetic system as a central component of women’s health and well-being, especially regarding fertility and pregnancy. The importance of the Kidney’s role in women’s health begins early in life as her congenital Essence (our essential 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 their 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.
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 ability to conceive and hold the pregnancy.
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 a critical transitional point in a woman’s life. A woman’s menopausal stage occurs at the age of 49 (7×7), when 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 common signs and symptoms that we’ve come to readily associate menopause with, such as hot flashes and swings in emotion. Interestingly, 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 – particularly, balancing 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:
Painful periods are not regular! It’s funny how women have come to accept that pain should be a regular part of our menstrual period. On the contrary – there is nothing ordinary about it! According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, an average menstrual period should be without 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 an average period look like? A woman’s menstrual period should arrive approximately every 28 days; blood flow should last 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 prominent role in healthy menstruation but so does the Liver. According to TCM, the Liver’s energetic system ensures a good volume of menstrual blood and facilitates its ease of flow during bleeding. The Liver also aids the Kidney in the timing of our cycle, ensuring our period arrives every 28 days.
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: