By Evelyn Cho, Registered Massage Therapist & Registered Acupuncturist

Mood swings. Headache. Tender breasts. Acne. Cramps. Back pain…

Most women will experience various degrees of these common PMS symptoms at some point.  Many thinking that’s just the way it is, reach for the pain medications or chocolate and soldier on. But it certainly doesn’t have to be so unpleasant!  Acupuncture plus a few lifestyle tweaks can go a long way to keep you comfortable when it’s that time of the month. 

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the week before the expected arrival of your period is a very yang time. Core body temperature rises, acting like an incubator to prepare your body for a possible pregnancy. Some women do very well with a boost of warm energy, as heat has a tendency to rise and expand.  But if the heat is left unchecked or there is underlying inflammation, possible symptoms may include: throbbing headaches, irritability, and acne break-outs on the face, chest, and upper back.  For these women, the following simple diet changes can be helpful:

Neutralize the excessive heat by including the following in your diet:

  • Fresh fruits and vegetables
  • Green tea
  • Chamomile tea

Avoid adding to the heat by reducing your intake:

  • Alcohol
  • Fried or greasy foods
  • Coffee

Yang also represents movement, so try to incorporate some activity in your daily routine at this time. Whether it is walking, dancing, cross-fit or swimming – anything that gets your body moving through a range of motion will be great.  Some women actually feel very fatigued at this time of the month and can hardly imagine adding more to their plate. For these ladies, I advise slow stretches and/or breathing exercises like qi gong or yoga. Done properly, breath work moves and restores energy without strain, and relaxes the body for energy to flow freely.  When the energy doesn’t flow freely, pain will appear in the low back, as abdominal cramps, or sore breasts.

Acupuncture is a wonderful intervention to reduce pre-menstrual discomfort. It is especially effective in removing excessive heat and moving “stuck” energy in the body, greatly reducing or eliminating PMS symptoms.  A smooth week leading to the period flow days will also set the stage for a more comfortable and pain free experience.