Press the Point to Relieve Menstrual Pain

Press the “Point” to Relieve Menstrual Pain

Healthnotes Newswire (January 6, 2005)—Women with menstrual pain might get some relief by applying pressure to an acupuncture point known as Spleen 6, according to the Journal of Advanced Nursing (2004;48:380–7).

The most common gynecological health problem, menstrual pain not related to other pelvic problems affects an estimated 60 to 93% of adolescent girls. Pain in the lower abdomen begins during or just before menses and usually lasts 48 hours or less. Menstrual pain can be accompanied by nausea, vomiting, back pain, dizziness, diarrhea, headaches, and fatigue, and frequently causes anxiety. Typical treatment recommendations include bed rest, exercise, applications of heat on the back, and the use of analgesic medications. Some women find relief from menstrual pain through acupuncture, herbal medicine, and nutritional supplements. One previous study suggested that acupressure might be effective for managing menstrual pain.

Acupressure is a part of traditional Chinese medicine. It involves the stimulation of points related to the “energy channels,” or meridians, of the body by using pressure applied with the hands, fingers, or thumbs. Stimulation of these points is believed to influence the movement of “life energy,” or qi, through the meridians. Spleen 6 (SP6) is a widely used point in traditional Chinese medicine. Stimulation of SP6 through acupuncture and acupressure has been used to treat pelvic pain in women such as during childbirth and menses.

In the current study, acupressure at SP6 was compared with bed rest in 50 healthy young women, aged 17 to 19, with menstrual pain. The women were randomly assigned to either receive 20 minutes of acupressure or to take 20 minutes of bed rest at the onset of menstrual pain during two sessions, four to six weeks apart. Acupressure therapy was given by the researchers at an initial session, and the women treated themselves at a second session. The point SP6 was found using the width of three fingers above the ankle bone on the inside of the ankles. Pressure was applied with the thumb at SP6 for six seconds then released for two seconds repeatedly during two five-minute cycles on each leg.

The women were asked to rate their pain and anxiety levels using four questionnaires before and immediately following treatment at both sessions. Pain and anxiety scores improved significantly more after the initial session in the women who received acupressure than in those who rested; pain, but not anxiety, was significantly reduced after self-administered therapy.

The results of this study suggest that acupressure at SP6 might be helpful in reducing pain and possibly anxiety in women with menstrual pain. Future studies might use “sham” points (points unrelated to acupuncture meridians), instead of bed rest, for comparison to SP6 in order to demonstrate the therapeutic importance of this specific point.

Maureen Williams, ND, received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania and her Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine from Bastyr University in Seattle, WA. She has a private practice in Quechee, VT, and does extensive work with traditional herbal medicine in Guatemala and Honduras. Dr. Williams is a regular contributor to Healthnotes Newswire.

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