Menopause and Chinese Medicine
Traditional Chinese Medicine is a complex medical art and empirical science over 4000 years old. Acupuncture, Chinese herbs and food-cure system, Tui-Na massage, and exercises like Qi-Gong and Tai Chi are parts of this comprehensive medical system. In China this ancient art and science continues to be applied in treatment of nearly all diseases as well as in prevention. Today the World Health Organization has officially recognized acupuncture’s ability to treat many conditions including menopause.
In the order to know how Chinese Medicine can help in the treatment of menopause or any other condition we must first understand the concept of “yin” and “yang”. Chinese philosophy and culture tells us that the entire Universe exists as a balance of two opposite and inter-dependant energies: yin and yang. Yin energy is cooling, moist, calming, passive and receptive. In terms of our body functions it provides structure, nourishment and tissue regeneration. Yang energy is warm, dry, exciting, active and creative. It is the activating and catalyzing force in the body. Yin is also called female energy and yang – male. In the order for life to exist there must be the union of yin and yang. But to maintain life these two opposite energies must be in harmony with each other. When yin and yang of the body are in balance there is health. When either one becomes deficient or excessive there is sickness.
Chinese Medicine does not consider menopause a sickness. However, menopausal symptoms are representative of the change in yin and yang ratio, which occurs as a result of the cessation of the production of certain hormones by the body. Hormones are considered yin substance and when this substance becomes deficient we experience hot flashes, night sweats, anxiety, and overexcitement. In addition to this a natural concomitant of ageing is a general decline in both yin and yang energies, which in combination with midlife changes may cause depressions.
A feature of Chinese Medicine is that it treats the individual not the disease. For example, if we were to look at a group of women all going through menopause we might find that each one of them may have slightly different configuration of symptoms or no symptoms at all. This is because everyone has specific constitutional strengths and weaknesses based their upbringing and personal history. Chinese Medicine will treat each woman differently based on their individual medical history and particular presentation of symptoms. The practitioner collects the information about the patient’s present symptoms as well as sleeping patterns, digestion, elimination, psychological well being, and overall life style. This information is used to formulate a Chinese diagnosis and create an individual treatment strategy that will restore balance and bring about healing.
Acupuncture treatment regulates yin and yang and the flow of energy in the human body by supplementing deficiency and draining excess thereby strengthening the body and relieving the symptoms. Acupuncture points are energy centers on the surface of the skin whose location and specific uses have been long studied and well described in Chinese literature and journals of medicine. The ancient art of using acupuncture needle to heal is much more than just inserting the needle below the surface of the skin. The energy of the acupuncture point combined with the intention of the practitioner reaches deeply into the energetic core of the patient activating body’s own innate healing power. Additionally, the profound relaxation that the patient experiences during the treatment also helps the body to regulate its physiological functions. It is, however, very important that the patient becomes actively involved in the healing process. Life-style and dietary adjustments are recommended to stabilize the effects of the treatment. Also, pushing oneself to the point of exhaustion either professionally or socially requires the body to rely on its hormonal energy. The typical “work hard, play hard” lifestyle causes taxation of adrenal glands and exploitation of yin substance, and leads to stronger or earlier onset of climacteric symptoms in both men and women.
Treating menopause with acupuncture is a good sense alternative. Free from dangerous side effects, it offers natural healing and support in this important transition in life.
Anna Kwiecinska, C.A., Dipl.Ac., CMT
11 Gordon Avenue
Lawrenceville, NJ 08648