A natural approach to relieving menstrual pain
Menstrual pain is extremely common, but it’s often not reported at doctor visits[i]. Why is this? Perhaps women just accept menstrual pain as part of the burden of being female, or we don’t expect our pain to be taken seriously, or maybe we are too embarrassed to talk about it. (There is a lot of ancient lore and superstition in many cultures associated with the female menstrual cycle).
Make sure it’s uncomplicated menstrual pain
First, it’s important to verify that severe or rapid-onset menstrual pain is not caused by something else, such as adenomyosis, endometriosis, fibroids, IUD use, cervical cysts or polyps, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Pelvic Inflammatory Disease, scarring or excessive dieting. Some of these conditions can remain undiagnosed for long periods so ask your licensed provider to oversee the appropriate tests in order to rule them out.
Conventional medical treatment for uncomplicated menstrual pain includes prescription medications, and hormonal birth control is also frequently recommended.
Assessing your menstrual pain
For those interested in an integrative approach that complements conventional care, I use a range of homeopathic and other natural therapeutics to address menstrual pain. First, I ask many specific questions about your menstrual pain: how long you have been experiencing it, the exact sensation (stabbing, sharp, burning, aching, etc.), how the pain rates on a scale of 1 to 10 (this helps later in determining if there has been improvement), the precise location (e.g. if there is a dominant side, whether the pain radiates elsewhere), the timing (e.g. several days before your periods starts, after the flow starts, etc.), if there is a time of day or night when it’s worse, how long the pain lasts (hours or days), whether the pain has responded to any previous treatment (e.g. over-the-counter or prescription drugs), if there is anything you do that makes it feel better (e.g. a hot compress, massage, lying in a fetal position, exercise, etc.), what makes it worse, and finally, if you experience other symptoms along with the menstrual pain (e.g. vomiting, headache).
An initial homeopathic assessment is always holistic, so I will as much as possible want to get to know you as a unique individual: what you do in your leisure time, the nature of your relationships, and perhaps about your childhood as well. I will also do a head-to-toe “review of systems”.
Long-term AND short-term pain management
After the initial assessment, I will attempt to match the pattern of your pain and other symptoms as well as your unique history with a single “constitutional” remedy. This could be a one-time dose, or a daily, weekly or monthly dose. Other lifestyle changes might be suggested such as nutritional, simple supplementation and daily exercise. Later, you might be asked to take a concurrent low-potency homeopathic remedy to help support the uterus.
I may prescribe a different “acute” remedy to use on or before the onset of menstrual pain, so that you can get some immediate relief[ii]. If the pain is severe, you may be asked to take a dose every 15 minutes for an hour or two. A castor oil pack applied topically until 3 days before your period can also help mitigate pain.[iii] (For quick instructions on how to make this, please send me an Email).
I might want to meet with you or ask you to report in after each menstrual period in order to gauge improvement and determine if the constitutional or acute remedy needs to be adjusted. Your description of the pain will be compared with the baseline (including the intensity ranking from 1 to 10).
Be prepared that sustained improvement may take a few months since menstrual pain often occurs for brief periods, and episodes can be several weeks apart.
[ii] Lynn Amara. Acute Therapeutics for the Homeopathic Practitioner. 1996
[iii] I am indebted to Karen Allen CCH for much of the information in this section.