PERIODS.......OH WHAT A PAIN!!!
Written by Nina Garrard
Who gets Period Pain?
Period pain (Dysmenorrhea) can be really dreadful. I have memories of being curled up in a big chair at my parents’ house, hugging a hot water bottle and wondering how on earth I was going to manage being in so much pain every month for the rest of my life (reaching menopause seemed like a very far distant reality at age 12!!)
In fact, I was rather lucky in the end and only had mild symptoms for a year or so. They were short lived and didn’t stop me going to school or my Saturday job so I was definitely one of the lucky ones. Period pain is common in the earlier years after periods start (menarche) and peak around 20 -24 years. Statistics vary according to authors but many state figures of 40-50% of young women suffering with painful periods and at its worst can limit activity and cause missed school days in 15-27% of menstruating girls (Bush, D 2017)
The period pain I’m talking about here is called Primary Dysmenorrhea which is the medical term for painful menstruation in the absence of any pelvic pathology.
Secondary Dysmenorrhea is painful menstruation as a consequence of the presence of pelvic pathology which would most commonly be fibroids, endometriosis, adenomyosis or structural abnormalities of the endometrium, like polyps.
Endometriosis is considered to be the most common cause of secondary dysmenorrhea and is characterised by the presence of endometrial tissue outside of the uterine cavity. This tissue continues to function as it would inside the uterus and responds to hormones in the body by breaking down and bleeding monthly. This bleeding can cause pain especially around menstruation. In turn it can then form scar tissue which leads to adhesions where organs can get stuck together, which in turn causes more pain.
Impact of Period Pain
So even though the causes of Primary and Secondary dysmenorrhea are different the result is the same. Pain and misery for those suffering.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to be able to see that not only is it debilitating, painful and quality of life affecting to suffer from Dysmenorrhea, but it also impacts more than just the individual. One critical review stated that women with dysmenorrhea have a significantly reduced quality of life, poorer mood and poorer sleep quality during menstruation compared with their pain free follicular phase, and compared with the menstruating phase of pain-free control women (Lacovides S, 2015) In families where a woman of child bearing age is the main or sole caregiver there will be an effect on her ability to look after her children on the days where she is suffering the most, which may in turn place an additional burden on other family members or friends to help each month. Where the sufferer is a money earner for the family there could be a financial impact if money is lost out of the family pot each month due to absence from work. This could have an impact on career prospects in the future if they are viewed as someone who takes regular sick days and as many women don’t report the real reason for their absence (in one Dutch study only 20% told their employer/school the reason for absence was menstrual complaints).
So what can Homeopathy offer to women suffering with painful periods?
I think firstly it’s important to say that as Homeopaths we prescribe for the individual. This means that there are potentially hundreds of remedies which may bring relief. Women experience their menstrual symptoms in a very individual way and what makes Homeopathy so wonderful is that it caters for these unique idiosyncrasies.
Women experiencing Dysmenorrhea for more than a few months would be considered chronic sufferers and would benefit greatly from working with a trained homeopath. However there is no reason why home prescribing can’t be used to help with acute symptoms initially. For this reason I’m going to focus on some acute pain remedies I think may be particularly useful for home-prescribing
I remember prescribing Belladonna for a patient a few years ago now. She had a terrible migraine with throbbing pains, very sudden onset and was in desperate need of a remedy. I was local so able to drop off the remedy to her door. She called the next day to report she was feeling fully recovered and asked me how on earth had I managed to help her terrible period pains when she hadn’t even told me she was suffering! Good old Belladonna did the job because it matched her symptoms even though she hadn’t given me any menstrual details at all. What a happy coincidence! She was over the moon with her first painfree period in years!
Belladonna is useful when pains have….
- a sudden onset
- throbbing, cutting, sharp or shooting pains
- painful menstrual cramps with bright red flow
- cutting pains from hip to hip
- violent bearing down pains towards genitals
- Pain better standing or sitting but worse lying down.
- Gushing flow which feels HOT
Magnesia Phosphorica (Mag Phos)
Probably one of the best known remedies for Menstrual cramps. Well known for its usefulness with cramps, convulsions and neuralgic pains.
I don’t treat close friends or my family I send them off to my homeopathic colleagues! However, I am happy to give this remedy to my daughter if she has menstrual cramps on the first day of her period (which are better for curling up in a ball with a hot water bottle) and it’s not failed me yet!
It’s a good match if….
- Pains are better for heat (hot water bottle)
- Pains are better for hard pressure
- Pains are better from bending double
- Pains better after a Hot bath
- Flow may be dark and stringy
- Thirsty for very cold drinks
- In need of comforting and nurture
- Worse lying on right hand side
- Cramping sensation with radiating pain
Coloc is a brilliant acute pain remedy with an affinity for large nerves especially tri-facial, sciatic and spinal. The emotional aspect with this remedy is key to differentiating it from other remedies. Pains are described as
- May come in waves and radiate outwards
- Pains are violent and sudden making the patient twist and turn and cry out.
- Ailments from anger or may be angry with the pain. Big Anger theme running through.
- Pain better from hard pressure, doubling up, warmth, lying on abdomen
- Pain worse from anger/vexation/indignation
- Pain worse at night, drafts, lying on painless side, eating and drinking, 4pm
Dioscorea Villosa (Diosc)
When I was introduced to this remedy years ago I was taught a really easy was differentiate between Colocynthis and Dioscorea as they do in fact share many similarities. Coloc is better for bending double and the capital C looks a bit like someone bending over. Dioscorea is better for stretching out and the capital D looks a bit like someone stretching backwards. It’s a nice simple way to remember which remedy to use when so many of their modalities overlap.
- Unbearable, sharp, cutting, twisting, griping, grinding. They dart about or radiate to distant parts
- Pains radiate from the uterus
- Cramps in fingers and toes alternating with uterine cramps.
- Better from stretching out or bending backwards
- Better for motion and hard pressure
- Worse lying down or bending forwards
- Worse eating and worse night
I hope you found this blog useful and it answered some questions for you.