When it comes to bearing the brunt of life’s hormonal injustices, it is perhaps fair to say that women got the raw end of the deal. Period pain, irregular periods, endometriosis, infertility and more are conditions that plague many women. But what can chiropractic care do about it, if anything?
Often, these issues are ones that women tend to suffer in silence with the assistance of painkillers. But a recent case report and literature review appearing in the Asia Pacific Chiropractic Journal offers a little hope on the topic. As always, case reports cannot be used to make generalisations about the ways in which chiropractic care may affect other individuals. However, it is clinical evidence that is well-worth consideration. In this instance, the case report is not the first example of chiropractic care being concomitant with improvements in menstrual symptoms. It is simply the latest.
The case in question involved a 31-year-old woman who had been under chiropractic care for quite some time. She reported that over the past decade, she had suffered from oligomenorrhea and dysmenorrhea. These are the technical terms for infrequent periods (in her case only 2 – 3 times per year) and a level of menstrual pain that interferes with daily activities. As the case reports authors aptly point out, this isn’t always just a simple case of cramps. It can actually refer to “menstrual uterine contractions, which are generally of higher strength, duration and frequency than in the rest of the menstrual cycle .”
Now, a woman consulting her chiropractor about menstrual problems may sound novel, but it isn’t completely out of left field. The fact is that chiropractic care exists to remove subluxations and enable optimal neurological function – and we know the brain runs everything, including hormonal function. It involves the sympathetic nervous system which includes the human stress response which also has an effect on hormones. Past research has indicated and that chiropractic and/or acupuncture may assist with “conditions relating to dysmenorrhea, amenorrhea and oligomenorrhoea” but so far collaboration between the two modalities has not been represented in literature when it comes to these particular issues. That’s what makes this particular case report novel.
Previous research has indicated “a strong correlation” between dysmenorrhea and “sacroiliac joint motion palpation.” Other factors indicated in evidence surrounding the condition under chiropractic care include chronic low back pain at L4/L5, and the lumbosacral and sacroiliac joints . Another randomized controlled trial set up to examine whether chiropractic care could affect hormonal changes relating to menstrual stress indicated that spinal manipulative therapy “may be an effective and safe non-pharmacological alternative for relieving the pain and distress of primary dysmenorrhea [2, in1].”
In the present case report, the female patient had been under chiropractic care for five years already, and despite having suffered with dysmenorrhea and oligomenorrhea, had never mentioned it to her chiropractor before that moment. Upon raising this new concern, she was assessed and “treated using Sacro occipital technique (SOT) chiropractic, chiropractic manipulative reflex technique, and acupuncture protocols .” The case report notes that she was treated for a category one “which involves pelvic block placement to reduce pelvic torsion and improve sacral nutation.” (The latter is a relative, abnormal tilt of the sacral base which can also occur alongside the sacrum rotating).
The full case report includes detailed coverage of the acupuncture therapy, and can be found at the reference below. It also mentions that her treatment was one year long, and that she continues under chiropractic care as before. The authors of the study mention that they integrated SOT and chiropractic manipulative reflex technique “for liver (T8), adrenals (T9) and acupuncture.” Over the course of the year, the chiropractor and patient took notice of patterns of stress and its impact on her cycle, but over the year of care, she experienced a regular, normal period every month. In the first year of care for her dysmenorrhea, breast tenderness was “non-existent.” She did experience some relapses which responded well to reapplications of SOT and CMRT.
An interesting note in this case report is the potential link between the psychological stress state and the symptoms relating to dysmenorrhea. While we cannot quantify a link based on this suggestion alone, there is always room for more research. In the meantime, it is always wonderful to see quality of life improve for someone who didn’t know chiropractic care was an option for some of their health challenges. We look forward to seeing what else emerges from research over time.