The Evidence-based Complimentary and Alternative Medicine journal published the results of a study demonstrating the benefits of acupuncture treatments on patients who had dysmenorrhea that have been unsuccessfully resolved conventional medical therapies. Dysmenorrhea may be classified as primary or secondary that is both characterized by painful menstrual cramps. Primary dysmenorrhea means the condition has no proven pelvic causation/ pathology while secondary dysmenorrhea manifests as cramps caused by a pelvic pathology. Pain is the dominant symptom of both types and this pain cannot be relieved by NSAID medications in about a quarter of cases.

The study involved patients with moderate to severe dysmenorrhea that has been going on for a year or more and had been treated with NSAID therapy with no success. These patients avoided oral contraceptive therapy, which is often given as a first line of treatment in treating dysmenorrhea. They received acupuncture therapy for two months with 8 weekly acupuncture treatments. The needles were inserted for around half an hour each treatment session.

The study showed that 13 of the 15 subjects had significant reduction of both NSAID use and alleviation of pain after the acupuncture treatments. The relief of pain was even greater in patients who had primary dysmenorrhea compared to the ones suffering from secondary dysmenorrhea. About 7 of the 15 patients completely ended their NSAID intake and remained symptom-free when examined half a year after the end of the treatments.

The NIH or National Institutes of Health recognizes acupuncture as a scientifically valid modality for the removal of pain. The NIH also has recommended as a valid treatment for a number of conditions, including dysmenorrhea. One of the best advantages of acupuncture therapy over conventional medicine is that it basically has no side effects. Acupuncture is also very safe to use and quite non-invasive. Traditional Chinese medicine practitioners believe that when an acupuncture needle is inserted into an acupuncture point, the needle brings about a much better blood flow to the affected part of the body.

Along with acupuncture TCM practitioners use Chinese herbal therapy to maximize the treatment. For dysmenorrhea, gui shi fu ling wan is one of the most common herbal formula prescribed by TCM practitioners although the proper formula must be chosen for each patient based on her manifested signs and symptoms. Gui shi fu ling wan is an herbal mixture that includes herbs such as peach kernel, mountain root bark, peony root, hoelen, and cinnamon twig. They all are seen to possess strong circulating and invigorating attributes that help relieve pain by removing stagnation or blockages in the body. Gui shi fu ling wan can also be used for treatment of ovarian cysts and uterine fibroids.

The study showed that acupuncture therapy can be an excellent option for treating dysmenorrhea pain, more so for sufferers who cannot use NSAIDs or oral contraceptives. This study’s results jibes with the results of most acupuncture clinics which have treated patients with dysmenorrhea for decades.