Dysmenorrhea

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Dysmenorrhea is characterized by the presence of painful cramps during menstruation. The condition affects more than one quart of women in reproductive age and it is one of the main reasons for seeking gynecological help. In some cases the pain is so intense that it worsens the quality of life of the patients. Sometimes, underlying conditions, as for example endometriosis, could cause dysmenorrhea (“secondary” dysmenorrhea). However, in most of the cases dysmenorrhea is not associated with other pathology and it is named “primary”.

Treatment of primary dysmenorrhea includes NSAIDs or hormonal medications. Even if they are beneficial for many patients, 25% of women do not respond to the therapy. In that case alternative methods such as acupuncture are indicated. As nowadays every treatment approach must be evidence based, numerous scientific researches, aimed to justify the role of acupuncture, have been conducted. Patients with dysmenorrhea were proposed pain severity self-assessment scales which they’ve completed at the beginning, during and in the end of the study as well as 6 months later. After undergoing 2 months of acupuncture treatment, patients reported:

  1. Reduced menstrual cramps- they were found in 87% of the patients- such a high percentage confirms that the results are associated with the treatment, rather than with placebo effect
  2. Decreased NSAIDs needs- subsequently NSAIDs usage linked side effects would be reduced
  3. Pain control was persisting 6 months after the treatment in 50% of the patients, which proves that acupuncture has not just one-time but continuous effects
  4. No side effects were reported

Given the fact that dysmenorrhea affects young women who often do not wish to take medications, acupuncture may help not only patients resistant to conventional therapy, but also these who refuse to take pills. Furthermore, it is also convenient for women having contraindications for NSAIDs or hormones.  That is why the popularity of acupuncture keeps growing.

References:

1. Iorno V, Burani R, Bianchini B et al. Acupuncture Treatment of Dysmenorrhea Resistant to Conventional Medical Treatment, Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2008;5(2):227-230

  1. Smith CA1, Zhu X, He L, Song J., Acupuncture for primary dysmenorrhoea, Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2011 Jan 19;(1):CD007854. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD007854.pub2.
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