Treatment of Premenstrual Syndrome with Acupuncture

by Mark Whalen

The first step in the treatment of premenstrual syndrome with acupuncture is to get patients to understand when there is a problem that needs to be treated.  In the past 10 years, I have worked with many women who describe their premenstrual symptoms  as “typical” or “normal’.

The usual symptoms are:

  • Breast tenderness/swelling
  • Bloating
  • Cramping
  • Mood swings: irritability, anger, crying, sadness
  • Sleep problems
  • Appetite—ravenous cravings..
  • Headaches and Migraines

While these symptoms are typical and can range in severity, they are not normal.  There is no normal PMS. I’ll repeat that. There is no normal PMS. In the view of chinese medicine, all symptoms of premenstrual syndrome are signs of a disharmony in the body.

Causes of PMS

There is no definitive, isolated cause of PMS.  The most likely causative factor are the hormonal shifts that occur throughout the cycle.  Many women experience problems during the shift in these hormones -around ovulation, the week prior to the cycle, or the start of the cycle.

Diet and lifestyle factors also contribute.  Patients who are obese and tend not to exercise have more problems with PMS.  If your diet is lacking in variety or is just unhealthy, you may be missing out on key minerals and nutrients, which can contribute to increased PMS.

Patients with a history of anxiety or depression may have more intense PMS.  Prescription SSRI's are sometimes used to combat PMS symptoms.

Current Treatment

For many young girls a visit to the doctor will bring home a prescription for the birth control pill to ‘regulate the cycle’. What’s really being done is shutting down the cycle - the body’s natural hormonal processes are being overridden.   The blood flow that occurs at the end of a month’s pills, is considered break through bleeding and not a true cycle.

While this approach helps treat the patient symptomatically, there is no guarantee this will solve the problem once the patient comes off the birth control pill.

Candidates for Acupuncture treatment

Not everyone with PMS requires treatment. If your PMS is moderate to severe and affects your life for several days or weeks every month, please consider treatment.

Ask yourself about your monthly cycle. Do you dread the week before the period starts? Do you feel like you are not yourself? Are you taking pills/painkillers just to get through the day?   Are your cramps so debilitating you have to miss work?

When you work with an acupuncturist, we will work to identify the underlying cause of your symptoms. We discussed the biomedical view of causes earlier.  In Chinese medicine, a major influencer of PMS is heightened emotion like stress, resentment, or frustration. Improper blood flow (we refer to as stagnation) is another contributing factor. Patients who have blood stagnation will have signs of clotting during the actual period, severe cramping in the abdomen, and headaches among others.

Whatever the cause, we will identify and treat you based on your individual presentation. In addition to acupuncture, treatment options include chinese herbal therapy, dietary and lifestyle recommendations.

Other recommendations

Avoid salty foods- may contribute to bloating

Meditation, yoga, qigong, tai chi- calming exercises to help ease your stress levels.

Go for a walk.  Any type of movement is good for helping to release the stagnation we talked about earlier.

Hot water bottle on your lower abdomen- works well for cramps

Try some of those with your next cycle and see if they help. If your symptoms are too strong, give us a call for a free consult.

Yours in health,



Mark Whalen is a Licensed Acupuncturist and Board Certified Herbalist and the founder of Five Points Acupuncture & Wellness in Reading, MA.

Mark Whalen – who has written posts on Acupuncture Reading MA - Five Points Acupuncture & Wellness.


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Five Points Acupuncture & Wellness
20 Pondmeadow Dr #107, Reading, MA 01867
Phone: (781) 944-3000


Serving Reading, North Reading, Wakefield, Burlington and the surrounding Middlesex County, MA areas.

Zip Codes: 01730, 01810, 01867, 01880, 01821, 01803, 01864, 01876,
01887, 01915, 01923, 01940, 01949, 01960