Period pains are painful sensations felt in the lower abdomen that can occur both before and during a woman’s menstrual period. The pain ranges from dull and annoying to severe and extreme. It can affect the lower abdomen, the lower back and the thighs but can also be accompanied by nausea, dizziness or bloating.
Surveys show that 70 per cent of young women regularly use painkillers to cope with the pain and at least 50 per cent say it seriously disrupts their lives.
There are 2 types of painful periods - primary and secondary dysmenorrhea.
· Primary dysmenorrhea is the most common type and is characterized by pain in the lower abdomen and lower back pain beginning 1-2 days before the period and lasting from 2 to 4 days. There is no underlying problem that is causing the pain.
· Secondary dysmenorrhea is characterized by cramping pains that are due to an identifiable medical problem such as endometriosis, uterine fibroids, or pelvic inflammatory disease.
In most cases, pain is controlled with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) or with oral contraceptives.
Now, a Cochrane database systematic review on period pain (dysmenorrhoea) has concluded that current evidence supports the use of acupuncture to reduce menstrual pain. Overall, there was an improvement in pain relief from acupuncture compared with a placebo control, NSAIDs and Chinese herbs. In two trials, acupuncture reduced menstrual symptoms (for example nausea and back pain) compared with medication and in one trial acupuncture improved quality of life compared with usual care.
This is great news for the numerous women who, each month, suffer from very bad period pain as it offers them a safe, natural alternative to medication.
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