Menstrual cramps, or primary dysmenorrhea, affect up to three-quarters of women at some point in their reproductive lives. This common condition causes cramping pain in the lower abdomen, usually beginning within the first eight to 72 hours of menstruation. Acupuncture and acupressure have emerged as potential treatments for primary dysmenorrhea, offering a natural alternative to conventional medical treatments. This article delves into this article published in the Cochrane Library supporting the use of acupuncture and acupressure to treat menstrual cramps.

Objectives: Evaluating the Effectiveness of Acupuncture and Acupressure

This review aims to determine the effectiveness and safety of acupuncture and acupressure for primary dysmenorrhea compared to placebo, no treatment, or conventional medical treatment.

Main Results: Acupuncture and Acupressure for Menstrual Cramps

The review included 42 randomized controlled trials (RCTs) involving 4,640 women. The studies compared acupuncture or acupressure to a sham/placebo group, medication, no treatment, or other treatments. The findings varied, but some fundamental results are highlighted below.

Acupuncture Studies

  1. Acupuncture vs. NSAIDs: Studies reported lower pain scores in the acupuncture group, with a benefit for pain relief in four RCTs. Adverse events were less common in the acupuncture group.
  2. Acupuncture vs. no treatment: Data were unsuitable for analysis, but pain scores were lower in the acupuncture group in all six studies reporting this outcome. No studies reported adverse events.

Acupressure Studies

  1. Acupressure vs. sham or placebo control: Two studies reported a mean benefit of one to three points on a 0-10 visual analog scale (VAS) pain scale. Another four studies reported data unsuitable for analysis but found lower pain scores in the acupuncture group. No studies reported adverse events.
  2. Acupressure vs. NSAIDs: One study reported more pain in the acupressure group using a 0-3 pain scale.
  3. Acupressure vs. no treatment: There was no clear evidence of a difference between the groups on a VAS 0-10 pain scale.

What This Means for Women with Menstrual Cramps

Although the evidence is limited and not entirely conclusive, acupuncture and acupressure may offer some relief for women suffering from primary dysmenorrhea. The review suggests that these therapies might effectively reduce pain and that acupuncture, in particular, may have fewer adverse events than NSAIDs.

How to Integrate Acupuncture and Acupressure into Your Self-Care Routine

If you’re interested in exploring acupuncture or acupressure as a treatment for menstrual cramps, follow these steps:

  1. Consult with a healthcare professional before beginning any new treatment.
  2. Find a licensed acupuncturist or a qualified acupressure practitioner in your area.
  3. Schedule regular appointments for optimal results.

In conclusion, while more research is needed to establish the efficacy of acupuncture and acupressure for menstrual cramps definitively, these therapies may provide some women with relief. If you’re struggling with primary dysmenorrhea, consider discussing these options with your healthcare provider to determine if they might suit your treatment plan.


If you are looking for a Denver acupuncture clinic to help you with menstrual cramps, digestive problems, headaches, pain, psychological conditions, or women’s health issues, contact us today at (720)285-6251 or book an appointment online.