Period pain: is there any good news?

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Menstrual pain is very common amongst young women. Despite the significant impact that menstrual pain has on academic attendance and performance, social activities and quality of life, most young women do not seek medical treatment but prefer to use self-care; commonly OTC analgesic medications and rest. Many women do not get significant pain relief from these methods, therefore other low cost, easy to learn self-care methods may be a valuable approach to management.

The good news is that Australian researchers have found that exercise, heat and self-administered acupressure can help to reduce menstrual pain.

German researchers have also been looking at self-administered acupressure and have been working on a smartphone app to help people self-manage their period pain.

The app in this study reminded women to carry out acupressure twice a day if possible in the days before their menstrual  period, and up to five times a day on painful days of their period. Participants in this study were able to use the app for 6 menstrual cycles, and researchers concluded that:

Smartphone app-delivered self-acupressure resulted in a reduction of menstrual pain compared to usual care only. Effects were increasing over time, and adherence was good.

The other good news is that you don’t need to wait for an app to become available before you can start using acupressure.

An accredited AHPRA-registered acupuncturist – like me – can help you to locate the acupoints to use for period pain, and teach you how to do acupressure effectively.

And what about exercise? Very few of us struggling with nasty period pain would imagine that dashing out for a run or a HiiT session might help, and the Australian study found that:

Low intensity exercise, consisting of yoga and stretching, showed the largest and most consistent positive benefit.

And heat? Well, the Australian researchers found that adhesive heat patches on the lower abdomen were the most convenient to use (unlike the cosy hot water bottle I had to use to illustrate this post).

Cautions and Care: It’s important to understand that the simple remedies discussed here, do not replace the need for, and potential relief that medications can offer many women. These simple remedies – regular low intensity exercise, heat and acupressure – are things women can try with some degree of predictable benefit, and which they can use as well as medication prescribed by their Dr or suggested by their pharmacist.

It’s also very important that women have an empathetic family doctor who doesn’t diminish or dismiss them when they are describing period pain which is so bad, it’s affecting their quality of life, and their capacity to function. There are some gynaecological conditions which cause unmanageable period pain (among other distressing symptoms) and a referral to a Gynaecologist sooner rather than later, should be the absolute priority.

2 thoughts on “Period pain: is there any good news?

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    1. Thanks Sarah. I really like that there’s good, useful and pragmatic research being done, which can inform our practice, and help people to pick and choose what might work for them.

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