Do you suffer from period pain? Although it may be common for women to experience some pain before or during their menstrual cycle, excessive pain is considered abnormal.
Dysmenorrhoea is the term used to describe severe period pain that may interfere with daily life. Divided into two types; Primary Dysmenorrhoea refers to period pain without underlying pathology, while Secondary Dysmenorrhea refers to period pain with an underlying pathology, such as the gynaecological disorders including endometriosis or uterine fibroids. Dysmenorrhea can occur in up to 50% of women so it is considered quite common.
Period pain symptoms may include abdominal cramping, low back pain, leg pain, headaches, nausea, vomiting, bloating, irritability, constipation or diarrhoea. If you experience recurrent period pain this may have long-term social implications in daily life including reduced time at school or work. Cramping in primary dysmenorrhoea is most commonly due to the uterus producing an excess of a chemical called prostaglandin. This chemical causes the muscles of the uterus to tighten or contract giving the symptom of cramping. Another cause of pain during the menstrual cycle is thought to be due to pelvic congestion, caused by the constriction of blood supply to the endometrial tissue when the muscles of the uterus contract. Dr Joanna Hilbert from Sequence Osteopathy explains, “Osteopathic treatment may help with addressing musculoskeletal restrictions throughout the body specifically in the pelvis, low back, diaphragm and pelvic floor. Osteopaths treat the structural imbalances to improve the functioning of the body to remove congestion and improve blood supply and drainage in and out of the pelvis.”
A study conducted by German Osteopaths has investigated the effectiveness of Osteopathic treatment in patients with pain due to primary dysmenorrhoea. The intervention group received Osteopathic treatment twice per cycle for three cycles. The control group received no intervention. The subjects who received Osteopathic treatment had a reduction in severity of pain from 4.6/10 down to 1.9/10. They also had a reduction in the total number of days of pain from 4.5 days to only 2.2 per cycle. There was also a significant improvement in Health Related Quality of Life. The control group showed no significant changes over this time.
You may be wondering how exactly does Osteopathy help? Well Osteopathic treatment can help improve blood flow to the uterus by ensuring the diaphragm muscle is functioning optimally. The diaphragm plays a key role in proper arterial and venous function in the body, and is also responsible for the mobility of pelvic organs associated with inhalation and exhalation. Osteopathic treatment focuses manual techniques to improve lymphatic/venous drainage away from the pelvis, helping to relieve pelvic congestion. This is achieved by ensuring good mechanics of the diaphragm, sacroiliac joints, hips, sacrum, lumbar spine, thoracic spine, ribs and pelvic floor.
An Osteopath can also help ensure balance of the nervous system to pelvic organs. Nerve supply to the uterus is derived from the lower thoracic and upper lumbar (T12 +L2) and sacral regions (S2-4), which control uterine muscle and blood vessel constriction and dilation. It is important to address any lifestyle factors that may be contributing to muscular spasm. Dietary deficiencies or daily stress may in some instances increase muscular spasm.
You don’t need to just ‘put up’ with period pain. Your osteopath may ease your symptoms with manual treatment and also assist with providing general exercise and stretching programs and stress management to help you regain control of your health and wellbeing.