Acupuncture can make a profound difference to your period pain. In clinic, I see people lie down on the treatment couch with period pain, and once the needles are in they report no pain or significantly reduced pain. Over time, regular acupuncture treatment can really help to reduce pain and uncomfortable symptoms around your period.
“Painful cramping, usually in the lower abdomen, occurring shortly before or during menstruation, or both”. (NICE, 2014).
Period pain can be anything from a dull ache to debilitating pain sometimes accompanied by vomiting or diarrhoea. It varies from woman to woman and can be incredibly disruptive to everyday life. It is something that I have experienced in the past and it is one of the most common conditions I see in my clinic. Thankfully there is a lot that can be done with a combination of acupuncture, lifestyle changes and supplements.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) there are many different diagnoses for period pain, depending on the type, location and timing of the pain, and other symptoms experienced at the same time.
For example, someone suffering from intense stabbing pain, before or during their period, passing dark blood and large clots, together with a specific pulse quality and tongue picture may be suffering from Blood Stasis. Blood Stasis is treated using acupuncture by inserting needles in specific points on the hands, feet, lower leg and abdomen.
If however, the pain is before the period or even mid-cycle, there is a general feeling of heat, the blood is red and mucousy, there is thirst and restlessness, the diagnosis may be Damp-Heat which would be resolved using different points and supplements.
These are just two patterns that could be causing the period pain but there are many more. I will take a detailed history of your health to form a diagnosis which will be one or more patterns of disharmony. The treatment will include acupuncture and may also include cupping or moxibustion depending on the diagnosis. I always explain these treatments before beginning in order to allow the patient to decide whether or not they are happy with these techniques.
There are a number of studies that have been carried out showing that acupuncture is effective for treating period pain, however, a lot of the trials are quite small so most recommend that further studies are needed to prove how effective acupuncture is in the treatment of period pain. One benefit that acupuncture has over treatment with drugs, whether that is pain killers, NSAIDs or the Combined Oral Contraceptive Pill, is that the most severe side effect is occasionally a small amount of bleeding or a small bruise at the site of the needle. The drugs on the other hand, have a list of side-effects which you can find on the package insert.
Valerie Salt is an Acupuncturist and Naturopath specialising in male and female fertility and hormone health. She is based in Henleaze, Bristol. She has completed advanced training in Fertility and is proud to be a Fertility Support Trained Acupuncturist.