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Is Acupressure a Solution for Period Pain?

Dr. Elizabeth Yuko is the Health & Sex Editor at SheKnows. She is a bioethicist, adjunct professor of ethics at Fordham University and has written for publications, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Atlantic, Rolling...

This therapy may significantly help reduce period pain

Just because period pain isn't unusual — around 90 percent of people who menstruate experience it — it doesn't mean that it's not a significant public health concern. Think about it: If around half the population menstruates and almost all of them are in some sort of pain because of it, that's a lot of uncomfortable people.

Though research into period pain has been severely lacking, we're finally starting to see an increase in studies focused on different ways to treat it. One recent study conducted at Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin and published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology tried to determine if, for people with periods between the ages of 18 and 34, self-acupressure would be more effective at reducing menstrual pain than the usual treatment of pain medication and hormonal contraceptives.

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Acupressure originated from traditional Chinese medicine and involves placing pressure on or massaging specific points of the body. It can be performed by another person or on oneself. The 221 participants in the trial were randomly assigned to be part of one of two groups — one of which used an app that instructed the user in self-administered acupressure before and during menstruation.

Although the trial was relatively small, the results were promising. Of the group that performed self-acupressure, 37 percent reported a 50 percent reduction in menstrual pain intensity after three months of utilizing the therapy. In addition, those who were in the acupressure group used less pain medication than those in the control group and reported lower levels of pain overall.

More: Are Painful Periods Hereditary?

“We were surprised to see that, after six months, two thirds of participants continued to use self-acupressure. So far, research into the clinical effectiveness of apps has been limited, and only a few have been tested using randomized controlled trials,” Dr. Daniel Pach of the Institute of Social Medicine, Epidemiology and Health Economics, one of the authors of the study, said in a statement. “We were able to show that apps can be evaluated in a clinical trial setting. However, despite our experience with conventional clinical trials, there was a lot for us to learn — something we found both exciting and eye-opening.”

Will it work for everyone? Probably not. But is it worth a shot for those with severe menstrual pain? Definitely. If you'd like to try self-acupressure yourself, Luna was the app used in the trial and is available to download from iTunes.

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