Down with Dysmenorrhea forever! Dysmenorrhea is a gynecological medical condition of pain during menstruation that interferes with daily activities. You may say, “My menstrual cramps don’t interfere with my daily activities because I take four Midol three times a day.” Many people think because non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) can be purchased over the counter, that they aren’t very strong, so they think more is better. Not so. A study published in the European Journal of Clinical Pharmacology concluded that simultaneous use of two or more NSAIDs was associated with an excess risk of adverse effects, such as hepatic (liver) injury, acute renal (kidney) failure and gastrointestinal bleeding. Is it worth it? Why not address the source of the pain, instead of blocking the body’s messages that something is wrong, and risk doing damage to your lovely organs? Taking painkillers is like disconnecting the wires to your car’s engine warning light; you may not see the warning anymore, but the problem didn’t go away.
Recently I was looking through stock images for pictures related to menstruation and I found about 15 pages filled with images that look similar to the one below. I couldn’t find one positive image, not even a woman dressed in white riding horseback on the beach. All the women looked as if an alien was trying to rip a hole through their abdominal wall from the inside. Something is wrong here! Side note: I searched “evil alien” in the stock photos and couldn’t find anything that even compared to the horror of the “menstruation” search.
Periods shouldn’t be painful. Many women accept the idea that painful periods are normal they may be common, but not natural (as in the way nature intended). There are many reasons for painful periods and knowing the cause is important, especially for ruling out something serious that may need medical attention. Fibroids, endometriosis, malpositioned uterus, hormonal imbalance, sitting too much, pelvic congestion and diet are just a few causes of painful periods (many of these causes are often related).
As a manual therapist specializing in reproductive and digestive health, I offer several types of bodywork. I have dual certifications in abdominal massage and have completed three levels of Visceral Manipulation™. I often combine several techniques depending on what your body is needing in the moment.
1. Arvigo Techniques of Maya Abdominal Therapy® (ATMAT): ATMAT is an external, non-invasive approach to repositioning the uterus and restoring blood, lymph, and chi flow. Many times, menstrual cramps can be caused by a mal-positioned uterus. The uterus should be able to move slightly in several directions, the issue is when it doesn’t move. The uterus must be mobile for proper physiological function. When the uterus is fixed in one position fibroses of the ligaments can result and impair local circulation. When circulation is impaired, the cells won’t get proper nutrients (oxygen), and acidity, pain, and cell death will follow (read more here). The uterus may be restricted in several positions. Retroflexion (tipped back and flexed) is just one example. In this study, severe menstrual pain was more prevalent with flexion ≥210° (77.7%) (source). Here you can see a retroflexed uterus pressing up against the rectum. Toxins from the rectum can seep into the uterus. In this case, the uterus has to twist and turn violently to get the toxins and indurated blood to release from the uterine lining. This is where ATMAT can help. The self-care massage that you will learn will help reposition your uterus to the natural position. ATMAT also helps when the uterine position isn’t an issue by ensuring optimal blood, lymph and energy flow. The Hands on Health, Healing the Maya Way class is a six-hour class covering anatomy and physiology and self-care techniques. I also offer a three-day class Arivgo Techniques of Maya Abdominal Therapy-Level One. Although the self-care techniques that you will learn in both classes will help correct uterine position and restore flow in the pelvis, it’s important to seek the help of a certified ATMAT practitioner for additional hands-on work. A session with a certified ATMAT practitioner may include dietary guidance, advanced techniques of the abdomen, posterior bodywork around the spine, sacrum and tailbone, and other supportive modalities.
2. Restorative Exercise™: The uterus attaches to the pelvis and sacrum via ligaments, so the alignment of the pelvis and sacrum will also affect the position of the uterus and health of the pelvic floor. In a Restorative Exercise™ session, you will learn exercises and body awareness that will help you free up your pelvis and restore the strength to your pelvic floor. Many women have greatly reduced their menstrual cramps just by doing Restorative Exercise™.
3. Chi Nei Tsang: In this class or hands-on session, you will learn self-care belly massage to reduce pelvic congestion (physical and emotional) and learn chi kung techniques for liver health. The liver helps process hormones and controls all flows in the body, including the menstrual cycle, so hey, we can’t leave the liver out of the equation!
4. Visceral Manipulation™: Manual therapy for organ motility, mobility and enhancement of physiological function.
Nicole Jardim’s Fix Your Period Program helps you fix your period from a dietary and lifestyle perspective and beyond! She even teaches you how to identify your specific hormonal imbalance, what tests to get (you can even order the tests yourself), and how to interpret the tests. The program is a perfect partner to the manual therapies I offer. I took this class and learned soooo much! I wish it were required for every woman. The course is called Fix Your Period-PMS, but it really applies to any type of hormonal imbalance including painful periods.
UPDATE: I’m a women’s health contributor to the book A New Cycle, Your Guide To A Better Period, Naturally. In this collection of essays by women’s health experts, you’ll discover natural techniques to alleviate these common menstrual maladies and enhance your feminine vitality all month long. With perspectives ranging from Ayurveda to uterine alignment, you’ll be given the tools you need to take control of your health—naturally.