It is a safe bet that most women have not had perfect periods 100% of the time. From mood swings to breast tenderness and short or long cycles, there are several reasons why your menstrual cycle can be less than enjoyable. Cramps are one of them. Finding effective ways to alleviate cramps is important, as some women experience debilitating pain that it interferes with their day to day life. To compensate for the pain, they may use birth control or take prescription pain killers, both of which can have long term effects. Even if you have not experienced the more severe type of cramping, learning about natural remedies and life style adjustments, are still useful in understanding the body.
Menstrual cramping is the body's way of trying to get rid of tissue that is no longer needed because an egg was not fertilized. Cramping more specifically, is the uterus contracting to shed the endometrium lining, which is what you see come out when you are on your period. Severe cramping can be caused by numerous things. Here we will talk about cramping in Eastern Medicine being caused by Blood Stagnation.
When your body is not effective in releasing the endometrium lining, it can cause pain because the blood is stagnant. Some of the signs that point to blood stagnation as the culprit are dark colored menstrual blood, menstrual blood with clots, sharp pain, unusually grayish or dark complexion, and a purplish colored tongue.
Here are some natural ways that may help move blood, hence, alleviate cramps:
1. Do not wear tight clothing: Tight clothes, especially around the waist line or lower, constrict the uterus, compounding a situation that is already too tight. The blood is stagnant and you are squeezing the area where it is the most stagnant. Do not wear tight jeans, pants, leggings, skirts, underwear, or undergarments that apply pressure to this area. Dresses, loose pants and relaxed fit clothing should be worn most of the time, according to Eastern Medicine, but minimally, do not wear tight clothing during your period if you experience cramps.
2. Do not wear tampons: When blood is not moving, it will congeal and coagulate, creating clots, making it more difficult for the body to release. For people who have clots, wearing tampons can create a physical blockage where a clot cannot be absorbed as easily. If positioned correctly, a menstrual cup would not cause the same problem. Pads or other types of period underwear are more ideal, as they create a free pathway for blood to leave.
3. Try applying heat: When blood is congealed, heat offers a way for it to loosen and to flow again. Low levels of heat applied to the uterus and alternating lower back, may be able to help with cramping. The stronger the heat does not mean the better. If the blood it too hot, it will move recklessly, as in the way boiling water does and create other problems. A hot pouch or hot stones that are comfortable on your body are ideal or even just the warmth of your hands will help. Please note this will not work for all causes of blood stagnation, especially if one has a heat condition. Continue to monitor your body's response.
4. Keep your lower half warm: Cold contracts things in its nature and asks things to keep still, where warm encourages movement and activity. By swimming in cold water when you're on your period, you bring cold inside of the uterus, thus potentially making blood stand still. The effects of this can impact your period the following month as well. Cold also can rise in the body through the feet, so make sure your feet and legs are warm and you are not walking barefoot on cold ground. The lower half of the body is the most connected to the earth and feminine energy. During your period, it is important to be aware of how this energy is flowing as a whole.
5. Take herbs: Herbs should be a first resort versus a last, when appropriate, as there are less side effects than prescription medicine. There are herbs that direct themselves to the lower half of the body and the uterus and also move blood. Eastern Medicine is amazingly efficient and has been able to differentiate a variety of patterns of menstrual disorders. Talk with a reputable practitioner to get more information on your exact pattern to start your process of using herbs or acupuncture. Just like anything, using herbs requires application on your part and the ability to modify your prescription based off of your body changes.
6. Relax: When we're in pain, we tighten up. As much as you want to constrict, open up your body and relax your energy as you allow it sink to the earth. As your mind calms, your muscles will also loosen and blood flow will be encouraged. Relaxing is following the natural inclination of the body during this time, so try not to fight it as difficult as it is. This is especially helpful to remember when you are using the bathroom as other muscles in that area are already releasing. Relaxing the uterus as well, can be a way to synergize the downward momentum and relieve the lining.
7. Release blocked emotions: Ask yourself if you feel your cramps come from more of an emotional place. The menstrual cycle is a way women shed the energy they stored during the month by being mothers, sisters, creators, care takers and every other role women do for our world. The period is one way to let go of energy that may have accumulated and take time for yourself. Having a moment to yourself during this time, may provide an opportunity to process anything you need. Are you holding on to anything?
8. Breathe: Our breath is the orchestrator of the cycles in our life. The menstrual cycle, being a cycle as well, is guided by the breath. When you are in pain, breathe through the core of your womb as you allow the inhaling and exhaling to take place of the muscle contractions.
9. Exercise gently: Movement moves blood. It's simple. But when you're on your period, it's ideal to keep the movement gentle as your body is already working hard. Yoga and Qigong are a couple of good examples.