Natural Treatment Options for Painful Periods in Women: Traditional Chinese Medicine Acupuncture

Painful periods, or dysmenorrhea, affect many women and can greatly impact their daily lives. Dysmenorrhea varies around the world and is experienced in 50% – 90% of women of reproductive age where 2%-29% of those women experience severe pain that renders them unable to work and can result in social and economic burdens. Many factors such as age, parity, stress levels, diet, environmental exposure, and health history may be associated with dysmenorrhea. Dysmenorrhea can be characterized as abdominal pain before, during or after menstruation that can spread to from the waist to legs, inguinal region, and sometimes perineal and vesical regions. Dysmenorrhea may be accompanied by various symptoms such as nausea, fatigue, headaches, irritability, dizziness, vomiting, diarrhea, and back pain. While over-the-counter pain medications can provide relief, they often come with side effects. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) modalities such as acupuncture, cupping, moxibustion, Chinese herbal medicine, and diet therapy offer a natural and effective treatment option for managing painful periods. 


TCM acupuncture can help alleviate menstrual cramps and other symptoms associated with painful periods, such as bloating, mood swings, and fatigue. The treatment involves the insertion of thin needles into specific points on the body to stimulate the flow of Qi (pronounced “chee”), the body’s vital energy. Acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine can help reduce painful periods by regulating the levels of hormones involved in the menstrual cycle, such as estrogen and progesterone. Studies have shown that acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine can increase the production of beta-endorphins, which are natural painkillers produced by the body. Acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine may also help reduce inflammation in the pelvic region, which can contribute to pain and discomfort during menstruation. Additionally, the nervous system can be regulated, which can play a role in menstrual pain.  

Diet therapy is an effective way to alleviate pain and other menstrual symptoms. Identifying foods that contribute to dysmenorrhea and those that support reproductive health is crucial. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) practitioners can provide guidance on creating a nutrition plan to reduce dysmenorrhea. TCM takes a comprehensive approach to improving women’s health and reducing painful periods. 

Here are some ways in which TCM can benefit women with painful periods: 

  • Pain Relief: TCM modalities have been shown to be effective in reducing menstrual pain and cramps in several studies. One study published in the Journal of Acupuncture and Meridian Studies found that acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine were more effective than ibuprofen in relieving menstrual pain with little to no side effects. 
  • Regulated Menstrual Cycle: TCM modalities can help regulate the menstrual cycle and reduce irregular periods. A study published in the Journal of Traditional Chinese Medicine found that acupuncture helped improve menstrual regularity in women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), a common cause of irregular periods. 
  • Reduced Stress: Stress can exacerbate menstrual pain and other symptoms. Acupuncture has been shown to be effective in reducing stress and anxiety, which can be beneficial for women with painful periods. A study published in the Journal of Acupuncture and Meridian Studies found that acupuncture was effective in reducing menstrual pain and improving mood. 
  • Improved Quality of Life: Painful periods can greatly impact a woman’s quality of life. TCM modalities can help improve overall well-being and reduce the negative impact of painful periods on daily activities. 

TCM modalities are a safe and effective natural treatment option for women with painful periods. It can provide pain relief, regulate the menstrual cycle, reduce stress, and improve overall quality of life. By seeking out a qualified and experienced TCM acupuncture practitioner, women can benefit from a personalized treatment plan that addresses their specific needs and goals. 


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