Painful Periods? Why You Don’t Have To Suffer.

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac, AP

Painful periods are what got me into Chinese medicine. A strange thing to say maybe, but it is true. I hated them then, but when I look back, I am so grateful for them. It is because of my horrible cramps that I became an acupuncturist.

Horrible cramps are what led to my introduction to Chinese medicine when I was a teenager. I had been suffering with them for years, and the only thing that doctors would ever tell me was that I would have to deal with them, that this is what came with being a girl. There were also prescriptions for hard core painkillers which could knock out a horse, but that was it. This was the treatment.

period cramps : Chinese Medicine Living

I was always amazed, even then, that there was no investigation. No tests, no ultra sounds to determine what might be happening. My doctor suspected that I might have endometriosis, but said that there was really nothing they could do about it. They could do an exploratory surgery through my belly button, but there was nothing to be gained by knowing.

At one point I asked if I could please be referred to a gynaecologist. I figured, this is what she DOES, so she might have some answers, or at least ideas of what I could do for my debilitating cramps. I was excited to see her. I was hoping that she might help me. I went in and explained my situation. And this is what she told me. She said why don’t you come back when you want to have children, have tried and failed to conceive, then we will know that it was probably endometriosis (which, if left untreated can lead to infertility and the eventual inability to have children). So… let me see if I get this straight… you want to wait, and see if the thing you think I might have (endometriosis) renders me infertile to get a correct diagnosis? Really? Wow. I was stunned. Nothing about how to deal with my cramps. She didn’t even ask me if I ever wanted children. I walked out of there with my mouth agape, wondering how this approach could be called medicine. It got worse.

It was after it was suggested by, not one, not two, but three separate doctors that I have a hysterectomy (that is the removal of the uterus) that I knew the world had gone mad. Could this really be a viable solution? I knew then it was crazy. I was fifteen years old.

hysterectomy : Chinese Medicine Living

I feel like I have told this story many times. It was the story that I told when I applied to Chinese medicine school. I wrote an essay answering the question – “Why did I want to be a doctor of Chinese medicine?” This experience with Western medicine was profound and transformative. It was also devastating and disappointing. I was experiencing first hand how broken the system was, and I knew there had to be another way.

I am grateful to my parents for teaching me to think for myself, and to question everything. This made for some frustrating interactions with many of my teachers growing up, but I was stubborn, and always looking for the truth. I didn’t take anybody’s word for anything, I always wanted to figure things out for myself. Every fibre in my being told me that the “solution” that these doctors proposed was insane. This was no solution at all. So one day my mother asked me if I wanted to see an acupuncturist. One of her musician friends was seeing one and said she had helped her a lot. I didn’t know anything about acupuncture but I said yes. Of course. I was open to trying anything.

I went to see this acupuncturist in her home that was incredibly quiet and peaceful. I walked into her office and felt instantly calm. It was serene. She asked me questions and listened to my answers. She was kind, compassionate and gentle. She did a very detailed intake and asked me about my entire life, going back as far as I could remember. She took my pulse. She listened for a long time. She looked at my tongue and wrote extensive notes. I remember feeling that she was really LISTENING to me. She was listening to me explain my experiences and creating an overall picture of my health.

Chinese Herbal Medicine Cabinet - Crate : Chinese Medicine LivingSilver Om Earrings : Chinese Medicine LivingThe Acupuncture Kit : Chinese Medicine Living

The acupuncturist then looked at me and told me that she would help me resolve my cramps. She said I had some imbalances but that with acupuncture and some herbs I could rebalance and my cramps would go away. It took me a minute to process this information… yes. This is what she said. I think I fell in love with her a little. She was going to help me so that I would not spend one week out of every four writhing in pain and unable to function. I was so happy I was speechless.

After a few months of acupuncture treatments and herbs my cramps went away. I went for treatments a couple of times a week and they were an enormously wonderful and healing experience. I fell asleep on the table almost every time. When the session was over I would be gently awakened and brought out to sit down and given tea.

Acupuncture : Chinese Medicine Living

I saw my lovely acupuncturist for many years. When anything came up, I would go to her. She always helped me and healed me. She told me what to eat, and what to avoid and I asked her a million questions, trying to understand.

It was after that experience that I realized that this is what medicine should be, and that this is what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. If I had had this experience with Western medicine, in theory, countless others had as well. I wanted people to know that they didn’t have to suffer or have organs removed. Chinese medicine offers a tool we can use to regain health, and maintain it. It offers not just healing from illness, but a way of life. Chinese medicine looks at things in a different way. You need to be whole to be healthy. It treats the person and not the disease.

I feel very blessed to have had this experience. It bought me to Chinese medicine. Because of what happened, I am passionate about it and deeply committed to sharing its wisdom with whomever would like it. I know that there are probably many people out there who are suffering with all kinds of ailments and some have been told that nothing can be done. I believe that there is ALWAYS something that can be done, and what happened to me is proof. :)

Yin Yang : Chinese Medicine Living