How to Cope With Painful Periods

Many women have just adapted to their painful cycles. However, painful periods (also called dysmenorrhea) are a good starting place for potentially uncovering any other gynecological concerns that may be inhibiting your fertility. For instance, conditions such as ovarian cysts and endometriosis can present with painful periods. While you're working with your physician to rule these out, and whether or not there are conclusive findings for your painful menstrual cycles, Chinese medicine can address this symptom to improve your wellbeing and help enhance your fertility.

Studies suggest Chinese medicine therapies such as acupuncture, herbs and moxibustion (a topical warming application) for painful periods work by decreasing prostaglandin levels, modulating nitric oxide, increasing plasma beta-endorphin (beta-EP) levels, blocking calcium-channels and improving microcirculation.

Acupuncture and Chinese herbal therapies have shown to reduce painful periods more effectively than medication - one trial demonstrated a pain-relieving effect within 30 minutes.

Conventional therapy for dysmenorrhea, which usually includes non-steroidal antiinflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or birth control (which is not an option for obvious reasons during fertility treatment), provide symptomatic relief but may have adverse effects with long-term use. Therefore, Chinese medicine is potentially the ideal choice for relief from painful periods.

You can get started at home with an acupressure point (Spleen 6) that you can apply pressure to during a painful cycle. You can locate Spleen 6 by placing 4 fingers on the middle of the ankle bone on the inside of your leg, and where the top of the 4th finger lands, right next to the bone, press or rub for 5-10 minutes on each side. You'll know you're on the right spot because it will probably be tender!

References:

Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2001;(3):CD002124.
Herbal and dietary therapies for primary and secondary dysmenorrhoea.
Proctor ML1, Murphy PA.

Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2011 Jan 19;(1):CD007854. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD007854.pub2. Acupuncture for primary dysmenorrhoea.Smith CA1, Zhu X, He L, Song J.

Med Acupunct. 2013 Aug;25(4):291-294.Acupuncture as an Adjunct Treatment for Primary Dysmenorrhea: A Comparative Study.Reyes-Campos MD1, Díaz-Toral LG2, Verdín-Terán SL2, Orozco-Suárez ES2, López-Ramírez P2, Pineda-Carranza A3, Basulto-Sosa PG4, Reyes-Campos PF5.

Phytother Res. 2006 Oct;20(10):819-24.Common traditional Chinese medicinal herbs for dysmenorrhea.Jia W1, Wang X, Xu D, Zhao A, Zhang Y.

Cochrane Database of Systemic Reviews. 2007; Issue 4. Article No. CD005288.Chinese Herbal Medicine for Primary Dysmenorrhea. Zhu X, Proctor M, Bensoussan A, Smith CA, Wu E