It is estimated that more than 50% of women experience some degree of pain with their period. The pain 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, just 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 for the immediate symptoms, they do not necessarily address the root cause(s) of the pain, such as:
- Hormonal imbalance and gut health issues
- Lifestyle and dietary habits: stress, inactivity, and poor diet are often culprits feeding into hormonal imbalance, as well as gut dysfunction
- Excessive muscular and fascial tension of the structures surrounding and associated with the female reproductive system
- Uterine growths (e.g. fibroids, ovarian cysts, etc.)
- Scarring of the uterine wall (i.e. 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
So, how can osteopathy help?
Osteopathy helps to relieve excessive tensions which can contribute to and reinforce menstrual cramps. Treatment is aimed at reducing excessive tension in the lower back, pelvic bones, pelvic floor muscles, and the uterus.
Gentle manipulation of the liver and digestive system are also a focus in treatment because of their importance in breaking down excess hormones and eliminating them, thereby preventing these hormones from circulating unnecessarily in the body and feeding into hormonal imbalance.
Craniosacral techniques help to balance the entire nervous system to support the proper functioning of the digestive system, as well as promoting relaxation in the body’s musculoskeletal system and smooth muscle, such as the uterus.
Overall, the goal of treatment is to promote an environment where excessive tensions in specific areas of the body are no longer contributing to the menstrual cramps, and reliance on medication for pain management is reduced.
What else can you do?
Now, because menstrual dysfunction is a complex issue with multiple factors involved, as a rule of thumb, it’s also advisable to support your treatment with a focus on reducing or eliminating foods from the diet notorious for promoting inflammation in the body, such as:
- Processed foods
- Gluten (for some)
An emphasis on consuming more leafy greens and cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, and kale help to nourish and support our body’s ability to breakdown and eliminate excess hormones, and also reduce overall inflammation in the body.
Supporting treatments such as acupuncture, naturopathy, and traditional Chinese medicine are also often beneficial to combine with osteopathic treatment, as they can help to target the additional root causes of menstrual cramps.
Cebi Ndlangamandla, Osteopathic Manual Practitioner, Adelaide Health Clinic