Acupuncture can ‘significantly’ reduce period pain for up to a year, new research suggests.
The ancient Chinese medicine was found to reduce both intensity and duration of symptoms.
More than half the women in the study receiving acupuncture had at least a 50 percent reduction in their severity of their pain over the three months of treatment. Some still felt the benefits 12 months later.
It could spell good news for millions of women, as up to four in five suffer from menstrual pain at some stage during their reproductive years.
Researchers said pain relief was greatest for those having the ‘manual’ type of therapy compared to electro-acupuncture.
Earlier research found that twisting the needles raises nitric oxide levels in the skin, which releases painkilling chemicals.
Researchers have found the ancient Chinese treatment of accupuncture can reduce period pain by at least 50% (stock photo)
ACUPUNCTURE WORKS IF TWISTED CORRECTLY
Acupuncture is often used to relieve various kinds of pain, from low back pain to osteoarthritis and migraines.
But clinical trials have produced mixed results on its effectiveness.
Tradition says it works by unblocking the flow of ‘qi’ along invisible energy channels called meridians – but research earlier this year suggests a less mystical explanation for acupuncture’s painkilling claims.
A team from from LA BioMed, explained that acupuncture causes elevated levels of nitric oxide in the skin when inserted at ‘acupoints’, which releases painkilling chemicals.
Their study found it only helped relieve pain when needles were slowly twisted with gently force or were heated.
They believe past research that has found no benefits has most likely not involved the use of proper acupuncture methods.
Period pain, or primary dysmenorrhea as it’s medically knows as, usually starts when your bleeding begins, although some women have pain several days before the start of their period.
The pain normally lasts 48 to 72 hours, although it can last longer. It’s usually at its worst when your bleeding is heaviest.
The pilot study involved 74 women aged 18-45 years with suspected or confirmed period pain.
The participants kept a menstrual diary and were given individualized acupuncture treatments after being randomly assigned to one of four treatment groups: manual acupuncture in high and low frequencies and electro-acupuncture, again in high and low frequencies.
Twelve treatments were performed over three menstrual cycles, either once a week (in the low frequency groups) or three times in the week prior to their period (in the high frequency groups).
All groups received a treatment in the first 48 hours of their period.
Potential for new guidelines
Dr Mike Armour, from the National Institute of Complementary Medicine (NICM) in Australia, who led the study, said the results are promising.
He said further larger trials may lead to the development of evidence-based guidelines for acupuncture in the treatment of period pain.
‘Pragmatic trials of acupuncture have shown a reduction in pain intensity and an improvement in quality of life in women with period pain, however evidence has been limited for how changing the “dosage” of acupuncture might affect the outcome.
‘Our pilot study found that using manual stimulation of the needles, rather than an electrical pulse, commonly used in many Chinese studies for period pain, resulted in reduced need for pain relieving medication and improvement in secondary symptoms such as headaches and nausea.
‘The latter was unexpected and will be explored further in future, larger trials.’
The research was published in the journal PLOS ONE.
RECOMMENDED REMEDIES FOR EASING PERIOD PAIN
If you suffer from discomfort during your time of the month, you may find it helps to try the following:
- Stop smoking– smoking is thought to increase the risk of period pain
- Exercise– you may not feel like exercising during a painful period, but keeping active can reduce pain; try some gentle swimming, walking or cycling
- Heat – putting a heat pad or hot water bottle (wrapped in a tea towel) on your tummy may help reduce pain
- Taking a warm bath or shower – taking a warm bath or shower can relieve pain and help you relax
- Massage – light, circular massage around your lower abdomen may also help reduce pain
- Relaxation techniques – relaxing activities, such as yoga or pilates, may help distract you from feelings of pain and discomfort
- Transcutaneous electronic nerve stimulation (TENS)– a small battery-operated device that delivers a mild electrical current to your tummy, which can help reduce pain
Source: NHS Choices