(NaturalNews) A study in the journal Evidence-based Complimentary and Alternative Medicine demonstrated a significant beneficial effect when acupuncture treatments were administered to patients who were suffering from dysmenorrhea resistant to conventional medical treatment. Dysmenorrhea manifests as painful menstrual cramps, and it can be either "primary" (without proven pelvic pathology/causation) or "secondary" (cramps in the presence of pelvic pathology). The dominant symptom of either classification of dysmenorrhea is pain, which is not alleviated by NSAID drugs in approximately 25% of cases.
Patients included in this study were suffering from dysmenorrhea of a moderate to severe nature for 1 year or longer and had not responded well to NSAID use. They had also refused oral contraceptive therapy, which is currently administered as a first line of treatment in dysmenorrhea cases. The participants were given 8 weekly acupuncture treatments over a period of 2 months, with needles inserted in applicable point locations for 30 minutes.
13 of the 15 participants in the study experienced substantial reduction of pain and of NSAID consumption following the acupuncture treatments. Greater pain reduction was observed in patients experiencing primary, rather than secondary dysmenorrhea. 7 of the 15 participants ceased NSAID use completely and remained asymptomatic when questioned 6 months after treatments ended.
Acupuncture has been recognized by the National Institutes of Health as a scientific therapeutic modality with an effective pain-relieving ability, and it has been recommended by the NIH for the treatment of several diseases, including dysmenorrhea. The beauty of acupuncture treatments is that they are virtually devoid of side effects, non-invasive and extremely safe. It is postulated that the insertion of acupuncture needles causes enhanced blood flow to the affected area.
Herbal medicine can also be used together with the above acupuncture protocol to enhance the effect. Although the proper Chinese Herbal Formula must be selected for each individual patient's exact signs and symptoms, one of the most commonly prescribed formulas for primary dysmenorrhea patients is known as gui zhi fu ling wan. This combination of 5 Chinese herbs includes cinnamon twig (Cinnamomi Ramulus), hoelen (Poria), peony root (Paeoniae Radix), moutan root bark (Moutan Cortex), and peach kernel (Persicae Semen). These herbs are considered in the Traditional Chinese Medicine theory to have a strong invigorating or circulating quality of the blood, and they serve the role of alleviating pain by eliminating blockages or stagnations in the body. This same formula is also appropriate in certain cases of uterine fibroids and ovarian cysts.
The study mentioned above concludes that acupuncture treatment may be indicated to treat dysmenorrhea related pain, especially for patients in whom oral contraceptives or NSAID are refused or contraindicated. This agrees with clinical results that many acupuncture clinics have been reporting. However, it should be noted that this particular study had a relatively small group of participants, and it did not employ a randomized, double-blind format. It will be useful to seek further scientific validation of the effect of acupuncture in dysmenorrhea treatment.
Chinese Herbal Medicine Materia Medica, 3rd edition, by Dan Bensky, et al.
Handbook of Oriental Medicine, 3rd edition, by Hyunbae Kim.
About the author
Adrian Baume practices Acupuncture, Herbal Medicine, and Microcurrent Therapy at Traditional Acupuncture Health Center (http://www.acupuncturechico.com) in Chico, California. He treats a wide range of conditions, from pain management, sports injuries, and rehabilitation, to insomnia, digestive problems, and health maintenance. He is also a practitioner of Tai Chi and Nutritional Medicine.