Acupuncture and Painful Periods

What is Dysmenorrhoea?

Dysmenorrhoea means painful periods. Normal menstruation that happens to be painful is known as primary dysmenorrhoea, while secondary dysmenorrhoea refers to period pain caused by certain reproductive disorders such as endometriosis, Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID), adenomyosis, fibroids, cysts or tumours, IUCD/IUD contraception use, cervical stenosis (narrowing of entrance to the uterus).

Causes of Painful Periods

The pain is thought to result from uterine contractions and ischemia (impaired blood flow to uterus), probably mediated by prostaglandins, hormones produced in secretory endometrium (the womb lining).

Treatment of Painful Periods

Western medicine treats this condition with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs), which limit the production and release of prostaglandins. Oral Contraceptives (OC) which control period pain by reducing the amount of blood loss and stop natural ovulation are also used. Acupuncture can treat painful periods and provide symptom management. In a randomised control trial of 43 women with primary dysmenorrhoea found that acupuncture significantly increased the proportion of women with reduced pain compared with other treatment (10/11 [91%] with acupuncture v 4/11 [36%] with placebo acupuncture v 1/10 [10%] with monthly medical visits v 2/11 [18%] with no medical treatment. [1]

[1] Helms JM. Acupuncture for the management of primary dysmenorrhea. Obstet Gynecol 1987;69:5156.

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