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Are Painful Periods Really “Normal?”

Ask any gynecologist and they will likely tell you that experiencing pain before or during your period is expected and nothing to be worried about. Dysmenorrhea, the technical name for painful periods, is experienced by almost all menstruating women with at least one or more of their periods. According to Grandi et. al. (2012), “menstrual pain was reported by 84.1% of women, with 43.1% reporting that pain occurred during every period, and 41% reporting that pain occurred during some periods.” Wow, that’s a lot of ladies experiencing pain! For some, the pain can be short lived and alleviated with an Advil or a heating pack. For others, their dysmenorrhea is so severe that it interferes with their everyday activities and can be accompanied by symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, and/or diarrhea. To them this way of life becomes their “norm” and pretty soon, they learn to expect once a month they will be rendered housebound for a day or two, while hoping that they eventually “grow out of this phase”. If you are one of these women, please read on.

Western science categorizes dysmenorrhea as primary or secondary. Primary dysmenorrhea has no known cause, though, it is known the pain is attributed to the contractions in the uterus as it attempts to shed the lining. On the other hand, secondary dysmenorrhea is a result of another disorder such as: endometriosis, uterine fibroids, ovarian cysts, adenomyosis, or pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). Therefore, it’s always suggested that you see a gynecologist to rule out anything more serious that could impact your health and/or fertility.

What does Chinese Medicine make of this? Well, even though painful periods might be a common occurrence, they are still considered indications of dysfunction. According to Chinese Medicine, when we experience pain, it is always the result of stagnation or a blockage. The reasons we experience these blockages are manyfold and varied, but the end result is always the same – pain. So when a patient comes in complaining of pain during menstruation, it is up to the practitioner to determine what the root cause is and to break up that stagnation in order to promote smooth flow of “qi” or energy in order to reduce or eliminate pain during periods. Acupuncture is extremely effective at promoting blood flow, which is one of the key ways it works to help reduce pain. Typically a combination of acupuncture and an herbal formula modified for your specific condition will be just the thing to do the trick and get you pain free. It’s suggested to start a course of treatment as soon as possible and to continue with regular treatments until three menstrual cycles in a row are experienced with little to no pain before moving down to a maintenance schedule.

If you still don’t believe me, a randomised controlled trial was published last year which studied the effects of acupuncture on women suffering with dysmenorrhea, where 74 women were randomly broken up into four groups. Each group received 12 treatments for a period that lasted three menstrual cycles. Two groups received treatment once a week while the other two received treatment three times a week. However, all the groups were given treatment within the first 48 hours of the onset of a period. Results showed, “The primary outcome was the reduction in peak menstrual pain at 12 months from trial entry,” (Armour, Dahlen, Zhu, Farquhar, & Smith, 2017).

All in all, acupuncture really does work! Give us a call at 646-609-4250 now if you want to end your painful periods. We look forward to hearing from you!



Armour, M., Dahlen, H. G., Zhu, X., Farquhar, C., & Smith, C. A. (2017). The role of treatment timing and mode of stimulation in the treatment of primary dysmenorrhea with acupuncture: An exploratory randomised controlled trial. PloS one, 12(7), e0180177.

Grandi, G., Ferrari, S., Xholli, A., Cannoletta, M., Palma, F., Romani, C., Volpe, A., et. al. (2012). Prevalence of menstrual pain in young women: what is dysmenorrhea? Journal of Pain Research, 5, 169–174.