As Traditional Chinese Acupuncturists specialising in women’s health, we see a lot of
women who suffer from painful periods. Women suffering from period pain experience
abdominal cramping, which can last for several days each month. Pain can be experienced
prior and during the menstrual cycle. Other symptoms associated with the period pain may
include breast soreness, digestive complaints, headaches, nausea, skin conditions (such as
acne) and mood swings. In some cases, the pain can be of such severity that it interferes
with their daily activities, such as not being able to attend school or work.
The medical term for period pain is dysmenorrhea, which is classified as either a primary or
secondary condition. There is no known cause for the primary condition. The secondary
condition is caused by endometriosis, fibroids or other pelvic inflammatory conditions.
It has become common to consider period pain as being normal and something that has to
be lived with. However in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) period pain is not regarded
as being normal. There is a saying in TCM that where there is pain, there is stagnation.
Stagnation is the blockage of the flow of qi (energy). During menstruation, the shedding of
the endometrial lining should be passed with minimal pain. However, if there is stagnation,
then this causes the blood to congeal which can contribute to the intensity of the pain. The
stagnation of the blood can be worsened with emotional stress and eating too many raw
and cold foods.
Common medical practice is to prescribe Nonsteroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs) to
manage the pain. This will provide pain relief in the short term, but does not address the
root cause. Acupuncture is a safe and valid alternative approach to prescribing drugs for
period pain. Acupuncturists identify the root cause of the pain and devise an individual
treatment plan for each patient. Such plans include acupuncture, lifestyle and dietary
Research in 2017 shows that “acupuncture treatment reduced the menstrual pain intensity
and duration after three months of treatment and this was sustained for up to one year after
trial entry”. (Armour M, Dahlen HG, Zhu X, Farquhar C, Smith CA. 2017). More recent
research in 2018 suggests that acupuncture may reduce menstrual pain more effectively
when compared to having no acupuncture treatment or NSAIDs. (Woo HL, Ji HR, Pak YK, et
If you would like to know more about how acupuncture can help you, please contact a
member of Full Circle who are also registered members of Acupuncture NZ.