Complementary Medicine - Cam
About This Condition
A woman’s monthly cycle may include several days of pain and discomfort due to cramps, also known as dysmenorrhea. How do you find relief? According to research or other evidence, the following self-care steps may be helpful.
About This Condition
Dysmenorrhea is painful menstruation. It is classified as either primary or secondary. Primary dysmenorrhea generally occurs within a couple of years of the first menstrual period. The pain tends to decrease with age and very often resolves after childbirth. Secondary dysmenorrhea is menstrual pain caused by another condition, commonly endometriosis . It starts later in life and tends to increase in intensity over time.
As many as half of menstruating women are affected by dysmenorrhea, and of these, about 10% have severe dysmenorrhea, which greatly limits activities for one to three days each month.1
Dysmenorrhea includes symptoms of abdominal bloating, frequent and intense cramps, pain below the waistline, or a dull ache that may radiate to the lower back or legs. There may also be symptoms of headache, nausea, diarrhea or constipation , frequent urination, and, occasionally, vomiting. The symptoms usually occur just before or during the menstrual period.
Healthy Lifestyle Tips
Many women feel the need to lie still while experiencing menstrual cramps, while others find that exercise helps relieve the pain of dysmenorrhea. This variation from woman to woman may explain why some researchers report that exercise makes symptoms worse,2 though most studies report that exercise appears helpful.3
Relaxation techniques have been used with some success to alleviate dysmenorrhea in some young women. According to one preliminary study, the symptoms of menstrual cramps, nausea, irritability, and poor concentration greatly improved after 20-minute relaxation sessions twice per week.4
Acupuncture may be a useful therapy in the treatment of dysmenorrhea. A preliminary trial reported that 86% of women treated with acupuncture for dysmenorrhea had complete cessation of pain for three consecutive menstrual periods.5 Other preliminary trials have demonstrated similar results.6 , 7 , 8 A controlled clinical trial reported 91% efficacy with acupuncture compared to 36.4% efficacy with sham acupuncture (using fake acupuncture points) and 18% efficacy in an untreated control group.9 A small trial compared a 30-minute TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation) treatment to stimulate acupuncture points with a placebo pill for dysmenorrhea. There was a large placebo effect in this study, and pain relief over the next several hours was not significantly better in the treatment group compared to placebo.10 More controlled trials are needed to determine whether acupuncture is a useful treatment for dysmenorrhea.
Spinal manipulation has been investigated as a treatment for dysmenorrhea. One small preliminary study reported improvement in symptoms measured by a questionnaire.11 A controlled clinical trial compared a single treatment of spinal manipulation to the low back and pelvis to a sham manipulation that was designed to be ineffective. Women receiving real manipulation reported twice as much relief as those receiving sham treatment.12 A recent, larger trial repeated the above study, testing a series of treatments over two months. Women reported less pain from both real and sham treatment, but there was no difference between the groups.13 Whether there is a real benefit from spinal manipulation for women with dysmenorrhea remains unclear at this time.
The right diet is the key to managing many diseases and to improving general quality of life. For this condition, scientific research has found benefit in the following healthy eating tips.
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Our proprietary “Star-Rating” system was developed to help you easily understand the amount of scientific support behind each supplement in relation to a specific health condition. While there is no way to predict whether a vitamin, mineral, or herb will successfully treat or prevent associated health conditions, our unique ratings tell you how well these supplements are understood by some in the medical community, and whether studies have found them to be effective for other people.
For over a decade, our team has combed through thousands of research articles published in reputable journals. To help you make educated decisions, and to better understand controversial or confusing supplements, our medical experts have digested the science into these three easy-to-follow ratings. We hope this provides you with a helpful resource to make informed decisions towards your health and well-being.
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Last Review: 10-15-2013
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