By Teddi Lesoine, Chiropractic Intern
Women…this is for you! Do you ever get a sudden cramp or backache or even headache that topples you over, and you just know that it's that time of the month again? If you’ve ever had a menstrual cycle, then chances are you’ve experienced some kind of symptom that you can attribute to it, whether it's cramps, backaches, headaches, bloating, tension, or even joint pain. In fact, did you know that only 10% of women in the United States don’t suffer from premenstrual symptoms? For the other 90% that go into battle monthly, what are you using to help relieve the symptoms? Advil, oral contraceptives, heating pads, lying in a dark room and trying not to move? There are other holistic, supportive and beneficial ways to fight the monthly fight including chiropractic care, massage, acupuncture and nutrition!
First we have to ask "Why does this happen?" Exactly why is still unknown, but it is strongly tied to the hormone changes that occur during your cycle. Here’s a quick run down of the menstrual cycle. Your menstrual cycle is around 28 days long, and is separated into 3 phases - Menstruation (day 0-5); Follicular phase (day 6-14); and Luteal phase (day 15-28). The transition between the follicular and luteal phase is where ovulation occurs (day 14). Ovulation is the occurrence of the ovary releasing the egg. At ovulation, there is a spike in luteinizing hormone (LH) and estrogen, followed by an increase in progesterone and a drop in LH and estrogen (all hormones that prepare the body for pregnancy). Usually symptoms occur after ovulation when there is a sudden change in the hormones or during menstruation when the inner lining of the uterus sloughs off and is removed from the body. So what can we do to help you combat the symptoms of your period? There are several approaches that reduce the need to take Advil or oral contraceptives.
Chiropractic care might not be your first thought when you’re trying to relieve your symptoms but hopefully it will start to be. Chiropractic care has been helpful in combating PMS with symptoms like backaches, cramps, joint pain, and headaches. Chiropractors see these things everyday and with the knowledge that they are coming from PMS, we can take an approach to help relieve your symptoms. During the time you have symptoms, a lot of tension is held in the neck, low back and abdominal muscle. Chiropractic care will focus on those areas that hold tension and adjust where they connect to the spine for optimal symptom relief.
Once your body is aligned with chiropractic care, massage therapy can be utilized to relax the muscles around the adjustment to optimize relief and improve function. Massage therapy focuses on the muscles that are holding tension. Massage helps to stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system which in turns helps the body relax. Massage goes deep into the tissues that are irritated by the menstrual cycle and helps relieve the discomfort. Massage can help with symptoms of PMS like muscle tension, headaches and cramps.
Acupuncture is utilized to balance the body and restore function and connections throughout the body. Acupuncture is effective in treating cramps, anxiety, headaches, nausea and so many more symptoms of PMS. PMS symptoms can occur when there is an imbalance in hormones in the body. Acupuncture places needles at certain spots on the body that can improve mood, and decrease headaches, cramps and inflammation.
What should you avoid or add to your diet when your symptoms arise? Lower your sodium intake. During menstruation, estrogen can cause you to hold your salt more which causes bloating and discomfort. Lowering your salt intake will decrease bloating and help with discomfort. Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables. Adding more magnesium (found in leafy greens and nuts) can help with muscle tension and headaches. Increase the amount of Vitamin B6. This will help with your mood and bloating and can be found in poultry, fish, and potatoes.
When should you come in?
First start tracking your cycle so you know when you’re ovulating and when you're menstruating. It’s as easy as downloading a period tracker app onto your phone. Then you should come in a few days before ovulation or menstruation, all of this will be the most helpful if we can attack it before the discomfort starts. Then we will want to see you while you’re menstruating too, usually on your worst symptom day.
Unfortunately PMS is a problem with no cure, but tracking your cycle, being proactive and coming in for treatment when symptoms start can stop the symptoms in their tracks.
Teddi Lesoine is a chiropractic intern currently attending Palmer College of Chiropractic Florida.