In my last blog post When Pain is Not What You Think It Is I wrote about healing chronic pain through energy work and psychology. As I was writing it occurred to me that many women live with chronic monthly pain, also called dysmenorrhea. We tend to think that PMS and monthly cramps are normal, but they really aren’t. For those of us suffering from severe monthly pain or other symptoms we also think that there is no solution, which is not true.
Pain and dysfunction is always a message from your body that something needs to be healed. The same is true of cramps, bloating, mood swings, and other menstrual symptoms. If you are experiencing them, your body is telling you that something needs attention. However, what needs attention might not be physical but be mental, emotional, or energetic. What you need to know is that all these layers can be healed and you can find relief from your menstrual symptoms. If you are a woman who struggles with any of these uncomfortable side effects of menstruation, then read on because we are going to talk about the energetic root of these issues.
But first let me tell you a little bit of my journey with dysmenorrhea because it taught me a lot about how the female body works.
I’ve always had some menstrual cramping from the time I started my period in fifth grade. Nothing terrible, but noticeable. In high school I started feeling more bloating and discomfort. It got slowly worse until my mid-20s when I lost a lot of weight (not on purpose) and didn’t get my period for about two years. (My experience dealing with that is a whole story unto itself.) It was kind of a relief because I didn’t get any pain or PMS but not having your cycle is not a good thing, so I had tests done to make sure I didn’t have any serious physical problems. Nothing came up so I changed my diet significantly and my cycle started up again on its own.
Unfortunately, from that time on my symptoms got significantly worse. I had all the usual PMS symptoms plus increasing pain before and during my period. By now I was in my mid-30s and a low-mileage runner. Out of the blue I started having random attacks of terrible cramps right in the middle of a run. The first time it happened I ended up sitting on the side of the road holding myself in pain and just trying not to throw up. After that it would show up inconsistently, usually near the end of my cycle but not always. I did a bunch of research into this phenomenon and found that a lot of women runners have a similar issue and no one could come up with a consistent reason for it. On runner forums women would talk about all the medical tests they had gone through but nothing physical could be found. On one hand it was good to know I wasn’t alone, but on the other it was frustrating to think there wasn’t a clear solution. So I continued to limp along as best I could, but this pushed me to learn more.
I started recording my basal body temperature every morning to keep track of my hormones during the month. Many women use this to track their ovulation when they are trying to get pregnant, but it can also be used for other reasons. I tracked my periods for about two years and learned quite a lot about the way different hormones would peak and fall during the month. I started on some progesterone cream to try and regulate things and this helped a bit with the running cramps, but it didn’t do a whole lot for my overall PMS and menstrual symptoms. One thing I did notice was that I was quite variable from month to month. My symptoms and hormones did not match up consistently. It was rather frustrating to try and see patterns.
As I struggled to balance my hormones I actually started getting attacks of terrible debilitating pain the first day or two of my period. The first time it happened I was home and going about my usual lazy weekend routine. Out of nowhere the worst cramps I had ever experienced hit me. I was in so much pain I threw up and then spent the next ten minutes curled up on the floor just trying to breathe through it. I managed to take some pain killers which I also promptly threw up. Eventually it passed and I lay there weak and shaky wondering what in the world had happened. The next few months were normal and then it hit again one morning as I was getting ready for work. I managed to call in and tell them I’d be late and then spent the next 20 minutes trying to get the pain to stop. It lasted so long I remember wondering if I could call 911 for menstrual cramps. Would they come? What could they possibly do? Over the next two years I would get random attacks of these terrible cramps along with increasing stretches of PMS that could last up to two weeks, and I knew it was time to try something different.
It was about this time that my food sensitivities had reached a peak and I was having a hard time eating all but a handful of foods. I started seeing a naturopath and an acupuncturist to work on both issues. I took supplements and herbs. I learned EFT and started doing some emotional and generational energy work. I stepped further into the energy world with Reiki and IET®. Slowly and surely my symptoms started to get better. The more I learned the more I uncovered layers of energy that needed to clear so my body could return to balance. Over time I stopped getting cramps when I went running. My PMS calmed down to a normal length and then eventually completely cleared up. (I can’t tell you how surprised I was the first time I got my period and realized I had NO idea it was coming!) My cramps before and during my cycle eased and I no longer got those terrible attacks every few months. These days I still am working through some physical symptoms, but it’s so minor compared to where I started that I can’t complain. It’s such a relief to feel more balanced and symptom free throughout the month.
You may be wondering why I gave up on the doctors even as things got worse. Well, I simply found them to be extremely unhelpful. One doctor prescribed hormone replacement therapy before even seeing the results of the tests she ordered. (Yikes!) I knew about the research proving that medical professionals take women’s pain less seriously (and women of color are dismissed even more readily than white women) so I didn’t think they’d do much for my worst cramps. I also knew that most of the diagnoses given to women with my symptoms have few treatments other than surgery or hormone medications and I was unwilling to go either route. So alternative healing for me was the way to go. That being said, if you are having debilitating pain or serious bleeding, go get it checked out by a medical professional and make sure it isn’t a life-threatening problem. Modern medicine is good for some things, and acute illness is one of them.
So what did I learn from all of this? First, women’s cycles are complicated. You probably knew that on some level, but they are more complicated than we realize. We think that having balanced hormones means that we have precisely regulated 28-30 day cycles that feel pretty much the same every month. Nope. In reality, we have month long cycles and four month cycles and 3 month cycles, and possibly a few longer ones as well. Remember how I told you that my cramps and my basal body temperatures were inconsistent? That’s because some of these larger cycles were in play. My body wasn’t in exactly the same place month-to-month so I had to look at larger time periods to really find patterns in what was going on. It also meant that as I healed, I experienced what felt like setbacks when in reality I was just going through a slightly different cycle that had to work itself out.
Much of what I experienced with my menstrual problems were energetic and had to be addressed with energy work before I saw physical improvements. For all the clients I have worked with on menstrual problems, this has been true for them as well. There are a few reasons for this. In general women tend to be energetically sensitive and this shows up most often related to the energetically charged menstrual cycle. Women who live together tend to synchronize their menstrual schedules. It’s a basic energy concept called entrainment when energies in close contact slowly shift to vibrate together. So if you grew up with mothers and sisters in the house it is likely that you shared hormonal resonances. Along with your cycle, you probably picked up on other energetic frequencies that caused problems throughout the month. In fact, medical science says that problems with menstrual cramps often run in families. From an energetic level, that is no surprise.
These energetic frequencies you may pick up can be emotional, mental, physical, or spiritual and can create energetic blocks that disrupt your body systems. The original block may be insignificant or it may not even be yours (you may have picked it up from another person) but it causes a little energy blip in your system that your body has to work around. Over time, other energy blocks can build up in the same place causing more disruption. If these blocks are ignored the body will simply ramp up its signals that it needs help. This is what happened to me as I started getting cramps while running and then later some of the worst cramps of my life. My body was simply making it impossible for me to ignore the symptoms and start working on solutions. Thankfully, I got the message.
Since women are so sensitive to hormonal fluctuations and energy, it means we can pick up energy blocks and associate them with different points of our various cycles. So energy can get blocked up in any of the highly sensitive organs, systems, cycles, glands, tissues, and energy processes related to your menstrual cycle. Energy stuck in your organs might cause a problem every month when you have your period, while energy attached to a 3-month cycle will only be triggered every three months when going through that particular point in the cycle. These energies attached to the monthly (and longer) cycles can only be released when you are back in that same point in the cycle. So if energy is causing pain at the end of your cycle (PMS time), then it can only be released during that time of the month. We’ll come back to this a little later.
To top all of this off, when you have PMS and cramps you often have your own emotions and stress about what is going on and those layers can get put on top of all the original energy blocks to create their own history of energetic problems. Going to doctors to get a diagnosis can add to this as well. This is where neuroplastic pain comes in (I talk about it more here) . Your brain makes associations between your hormonal cycle and various symptoms such as pain, bloating, irritability and more. These things may not be biologically necessary or rooted in a physical dysfunction but are actually your mind creating symptoms. It’s not psychosis, it’s just what the mind does. It’s job is to keep track of all your past history and warn you when something dangerous might be coming up. If you’ve had bad experiences with menstruation in the past, then hormonal fluctuations can trigger your brain to send warning signals to your body that some bad things might be coming. In a sense, you aren’t just reacting to that month’s pain but to all the pain of the past that your body remembers. So after I had my first bad cramping session while running, every other time I was running near that same time of my cycle my brain was on high alert expecting another episode. As I've worked more with this concept, I’ve discovered that quite a bit of my monthly cramping is neuroplastic and easily cleared with Reiki, leaving me with much less physical pain to deal with.
And just to be clear, not all menstrual symptoms are purely energetic. There are some physical causes that can be helped with supplements, exercise, healthy eating, water, and other supports. Remember I said that all pain and dysfunction is a sign that your body wants to heal? Some of that healing might be physical, so don’t discount those possible solutions as well.
You might be wondering how this applies to someone diagnosed with fibroids or endometriosis. They are clear medical diagnoses with very physical causes and symptoms. I would respond that they probably also have roots in a combination of physical and energetic issues that can be healed. Most physical ailments begin with an energy block that wasn’t able to clear. If you can start to clear these blocks the body will be able to heal itself again (read more about self healing here). Just because you have a diagnosis that medical science says cannot be cured does not mean you shouldn’t seek healing for it. Just because there is no known physical surgery or medication for something doesn’t mean there isn’t the possibility of healing through other means.
So let’s talk about how you might start healing menstrual problems. I wrote a post about how there are many ways to do healing work and this is true of menstrual problems as much as anything else. If you’ve read my blog you will know that everything we do, feel, believe, and experience has energetic signatures that we store in our bodies. Some of these help us become who we are supposed to be. Others create the energy blocks we talked about before. These blocks are the source of the pain and dysfunction we feel and keep us from healing and living our best lives. This is what we need to work through. I’ve found that the work usually needs to happen on several levels (physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual) at the same time. It’s not just taking supplements but also removing limiting beliefs and doing energy work to clear other people’s stuff. The basis of your problems are all intertwined and so are the solutions.
Those solutions will be different for each one of us. I’ve written about how healing is complicated and this is definitely the case with menstrual problems. As women we deal with energetically sensitive bodies but we also deal with a ton of social beliefs telling us who we should be, how we should behave, how our worth is evaluated, and much more. As daughters and mothers and caregivers we take on a lot of emotional energy that is not our own. As creators we try to fix things for ourselves and others. We are given really screwed up messages about who to be and how to live. Healing for us is complicated because we need to work through issues on all these mental, emotional, and spiritual levels as well as the physical.
So if you are dealing with menstrual problems, you first must know that there is hope. Then you must know that the solution will likely be multifaceted. There will not be one supplement or retreat or exercise that will fix all your problems. You are going to have to work on a number of levels at once to find relief. Also, as mentioned before, you need to know that there are shorter and longer cycles all working at the same time so you will likely think you are experiencing setbacks when in reality you are just working through the layers as they are available.
Once you believe you can heal then you need to start working on your own healing plan. I suggest starting with all the conventional medical suggestions. Eat well, cut the trans fats, reduce inflammatory foods, exercise regularly, get lots of rest, drink lots of water, and get into the sun. These suggestions are helpful because they provide the physical support your body needs to heal.
I would also suggest seeing an acupuncturist or Reiki master. They are very good at releasing energy blocked up in the system. See if you can find someone who has worked with other women on menstrual issues. Either practitioner might also suggest supplements or herbs that can be helpful. If you experience your worst symptoms in the days before your period, then be sure to schedule appointments during those times. Some energy is only accessible at certain points during your cycle, so energy work during those times is vital. Also, remember that there are larger cycles in play so don’t expect consistent improvement for the first few months.
Another huge area to begin your work is to get a therapist to help you process any past trauma you’ve been holding on to, especially if it relates to women in your family, sexual abuse, or your feminine self-image. Find a professional experienced in the kind of trauma you need to deal with. I’d be totally shocked if that isn’t somehow connected to your menstrual issues.
Even if you don’t think you have major trauma to deal with, we all carry everyday trauma in the form of limiting beliefs and social expectations that create energy blocks in our bodies. In most modern cultures being female carries a lot of baggage and it’s no surprise that some of that energetic baggage gets caught up in our menstrual cycles and screams to be healed every month. Get a counselor, a therapist, a coach, or a spiritual guide who can help you navigate some of this and release the energy behind these beliefs.
Also, start to get a more realistic sense of what is normal throughout your cycle and learn to adjust your life to fit your body’s natural rhythms. Although I feel that pain and dysfunction are a sign that something is wrong, I also believe that there are normal ebbs and flows to female energy that should be honored. You shouldn’t expect to run yourself ragged every day of the month without consequences. Traditional cultures throughout the world have recognized women’s menstruation as a time for rest, female reconnection, reflection, and meditation. Western culture has totally lost this mythic sense of natural flow so that we think a healthy hormonal cycle means we feel the same every day of the month and continue exercising right through our periods. This isn’t true and you will never balance your system if you push for this unrealistic dream. Do some reading and research and find out what is historically normal to expect for women throughout the month. Here are two good places to start:
Wisdom of the Menstrual Cycle by Christiane Northrup, M.D.
The Red Web Foundation was created to celebrate women’s menstrual cycles rather than vilify them.
If you start here you will get plenty of ideas of other places to get information.
After going through my own healing of menstrual problems I now use what I have learned to help others listen to their bodies and discover what they need. I use a large variety of energy practices, but I always start with Reiki, IET®, and EFT. These practices remove energy blocks and support the body’s own healing processes. Together clients and I can find the root causes of energy blocks and figure out what they need to move forward. Reik in particular is also excellent at clearing out that neuroplastic pain quickly. In addition, I teach clients energy practices they can use on their own. We create a custom plan to help them through all the layers of work they need to do to create their own healing. Some need to release beliefs or old thought patterns. Others need support changing their diet or creating healthier habits. Often my clients see other practitioners to do work on areas of concern at the same time. Each person I work with is individual and there is no one-size-fits-all program that I use. If you have trouble with uncomfortable menstrual cycles, contact me through my website and we can talk about what you need to move forward.
You don’t have to live with chronic pain from monthly menstruation. Your body is telling you it needs healing and that healing is possible. You will have to do some work, but start today and you’ll likely find relief sooner than you thought was possible.