Help for Women With Painful Periods
Posted by Genevieve Boyer
Conventional medicine doesn’t have much to offer for the treatment of painful periods. Conventional treatment involves the use of ibuprofen for pain management during periods or the use of birth control pills to moderate the intensity of the cycle for women not trying to conceive.
But there is more that can be done for painful periods with acupuncture and Chinese medicine. A research study from Australia1 compared the use of ibuprofen to acupuncture alone and to acupuncture accompanied by Chinese herbal therapy.
In terms of acupuncture treatment, participants received two acupuncture treatments per month (one treatment 2-3 days before the period and one treatment on the day of the period) for three consecutive cycles. Participants also taking the herbal formula took it daily for three consecutive cycles.
What the researchers found was that participants in both acupuncture groups (with herbs and with placebo) experienced better relief from menstrual pain immediately after the three months of treatment than the control group that was using ibuprofen for pain relief. For example, 29% of participants receiving both acupuncture and herbal therapy reported complete disappearance of pain and 21% of patients receiving acupuncture and placebo reported complete disappearance of pain (compared to none of the participants of the control group reporting disappearance of pain).
Three months after treatment ended the patients who had received acupuncture were still reporting better menstrual pain relief than the control group. At 12 month follow-up, the group that performed the best was the group that had received acupuncture and herbal therapy, with 21% of participants in this group still reporting disappearance of pain.
This study had its limitations—the acupuncture point prescription used wasn’t individualized as we often do in clinical practice but standardized across all participants, as was the herbal prescription. In Oriental medicine, we get the best results when we provide individualized treatment, so results in clinical practice can potentially be even better than this.
- Miao, E.Y. et al. 2014. Effects of electroacupuncture and electroacupuncture plus Tao Hong Si Wu Wan in treating primary dysmenorrhea. Journal of Acupuncture and Meridian Studies; 7(1): 6-14.