Acupuncture could benefit women suffering from period pain

New research on acupuncture has found that the traditional Chinese treatment could significantly decrease period pain, even a year after treatment.

Carried out by researchers from Western Sydney University, Australia and the University of Auckland, New Zealand, the team looked at the effect of acupuncture on Primary Dysmenorrhea, more commonly known as period pain.

Primary Dysmenorrhea is the most common gynecological complaint in menstruating women, with up to four in five women suffering from it at some stage.

The researchers recruited 74 women aged 18-45 years with suspected or confirmed primary dysmenorrhea and no known cause of secondary dysmenorrhea, which is related to an existing condition such as endometriosis.

The women were all given individualized acupuncture treatments after being randomly assigned to one of four treatment groups: high frequency manual acupuncture, low frequency manual acupuncture, high frequency electro acupuncture and low frequency electro acupuncture.

Manual acupuncture involves manual stimulation of the needles, while electro acupuncture sessions uses an electrical pulse.

The women received 12 treatments over three menstrual cycle, either once per week between periods in the low frequency groups or three times in the week before their period in the high frequency groups.

All groups also received a treatment in the first 48 hours of their period.

During the study participants were also asked to keep a menstrual diary.

The results showed that over half the women who received manual acupuncture had at least 50 percent reduction in the severity of their period pain over the course of the three-month treatment.

The team also found less pain relief medication was needed when receiving manual acupuncture treatment compared to electro-acupuncture.

Acupuncture treatment not only significantly reduced the intensity, duration and symptoms of period pain, but these improvements also lasted up to a year after treatment. Those who received a high frequency of treatment also benefited from even greater improvements in health-related quality of life, such as vitality, social function, and bodily pain.

Study leader Dr Mike Armour described the results as “promising,” commenting that, “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.”

Dr Armour now believes that further larger trials may help establish guidelines and “dosages” for acupuncture in the treatment of period pain.

The findings can be found published online in the international journal PLOS ONE.

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