Drug-Free Menstrual Pain Relief
One of the worst aspects of monthly menstruation is the pain that often accompanies it. It can begin days before a period starts, intensify suddenly, and really affect a woman’s quality of life in some cases. And going to a doctor in search of relief is typically only met with pharmaceutical recommendations. But now there is good news for women looking for a natural, medication-free way to feel better every month. New research suggests that acupressure might provide the help you’ve been waiting for.
The study, which took place at Charite-Universitatsmedizin Berlin in Germany, found that acupressure is an effective method for treating dysmenorrhea, which is the pain associated with monthly menstruation.1 The results are based on an investigation involving 221 women between the ages of 18 and 34, all of whom experience severe menstrual pain.
The subjects were randomly divided into two groups. Both groups were given an app for their smartphones. Those in the acupressure group learned basic instructions for performing the technique, while the control group was instructed to follow usual care, which consists of using nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and oral contraceptives.
Training was provided on methods of self-administering acupressure before and during menstruation for those in the acupressure group. The app offered visual representations of three specific pressure points around the body to ensure the participants would learn to perform this technique properly. The app also sent the users reminders to do their acupressure as well as collected information for the study.
Three months after the trial began, 37 percent of the volunteers in the acupressure group had a marked reduction in the intensity of their menstrual pain, at an average of 50 percent lower on the ratings scale devised by the researchers. At a six-month follow-up, the percentage of women reporting a significant reduction in pain increased even further to 58 percent. In contrast, only 25 percent of the subjects in the control group using NSAIDS and oral contraceptives experienced a similar level of pain relief at either three or six months along in the study.
As further evidence that the participants found the acupressure treatments effective, many continued to employ the techniques after the six-month point that terminated the official investigation. Perhaps even more importantly, the volunteers in the acupressure group reported less use of pharmaceutical drugs to manage pain as well as lower pain levels overall compared to their counterparts not doing acupressure.
Beyond the obvious benefits of experiencing less pain, the fact that the subjects felt comfortable enough to use less medication is significant. Again, the over-the-counter drugs that are typically recommended for menstrual pain are NSAIDs, which include medications like ibuprofen (Advil) and naproxen (Alleve). They may temporarily reduce inflammation and relieve pain, but these drugs have also been linked with health problems such as erectile dysfunction (not particularly a woman’s issue, but certainly an adverse effect indicator), irregular heartbeat, and hearing loss. And if you’re not experiencing significant relief from these drugs, most doctors will readily prescribe oral contraceptives to combat menstrual pain. This puts you at risk for conditions including Crohn’s disease and glaucoma.
That’s why it is wonderful that a technique such as acupressure can be an effective method of reducing menstrual pain naturally. A form of Traditional Chinese Medicine, acupressure theoretically restores the balance of the energy that flows in the pathways of the body. As a massage is provided to the pressure points, acupressure also likely reduces muscle tension, improves circulation, and stimulates the production of endorphins.
While it operates on a similar principle to that of acupuncture—just without the needles—an advantage to acupressure is that you don’t need a practitioner to receive treatment. Since it is based on applying massage and pressure to specific points on the body, acupressure is something you can do at home on your own. You can learn about performing acupressure through online instruction or by working with a local practitioner. Then, at the first sign of discomfort when you’re premenstrual, apply the techniques and you will hopefully avoid monthly pain without any need for medication. And you also might want to check out Jon Barron’s report on natural progesterone.
- 1. Blodt, Susanne; et al. "Effectiveness of app-based self-acupressure for women with menstrual pain compared to usual care: a randomized pragmatic trial." American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology. February 2018. Accessed 5 April 2018. http://www.ajog.org/article/S0002-9378(17)32335-9/fulltext.