Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS)

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Most women experience premenstrual symptoms at some stage in their lives and for 1 in 10 women the symptoms are bad enough to disrupt their daily lives. PMS causes symptoms that are both physical (breast tenderness, abdominal boating, headaches, swollen ankles) and psychological (irritability, mood swings, loss of temper, spontaneous crying, poor concentration).

Most women notice a gradual worsening of symptoms in the week leading up to their period. Symptoms usually fade rapidly once menstruation starts, though they can persist throughout menstruation in some women. This specific relationship in time to the menstrual cycle distinguishes PMS from other conditions that can cause similar symptoms such as depression, stress or thyroid disorders. Conventional treatments for PMS include hormonal treatments such as progestogens and the contraceptive pill, vitamin B6 and symptomatic treatments such as diuretics (water tablets) and antidepressants.

Although acupuncture appears promising as a treatment for the symptoms of PMS, there has been insufficient research to be sure of its benefit. However a new study suggests that acupuncture given at traditional Chinese points can relieve the symptoms of anxiety and depression associated with PMS.

My clinical impression is that acupuncture helps some, but by no means all, women. Treatment – once or twice a week – over 2-3 months is sufficient to judge whether acupuncture is helping, though it is sometimes necessary to continue treatment for many months, though usually at longer intervals, such as monthly.