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  • Writer's pictureErin Heidrich L.Ac

Acupuncture can help Painful Periods and PMS

Do you have debilitating cramps every month? You know, the kind that make you need to call in sick to work and hide yourself away in your room? You may have tried many different things to help relieve your cramps once they come, but did you know that you can actually keep your period from being painful in the first place? Acupuncture can help regulate your menstrual cycle and balance your hormones which will make you experience less painful and less irritable periods.

Dysmenorrhea, or menstrual cramps, is the technical term for the dull throbbing abdominal pain that some women experience during their periods. It can range from a mild annoyance to the kind of severe pain that can ruin several days each month. Western doctors classify menstrual cramps as either primary or secondary dysmenorrhea. Primary dysmenorrhea has no known cause whereas secondary dysmenorrhea is caused by a physical problem such as fibroids or endometriosis.

You may ask, what should a normal period look like? A normal period should arrive with minimal pain, no clots and freely flowing blood. The amount of blood should be manageable with no flooding or leaking. An average amount of time for bleeding is 3-5 days.

Chinese Medicine can help with menstrual cramps and other PMS symptoms by balancing your body and helping to regulate your cycle. It works on increasing circulation of blood and lymph fluid so that there is less build up and pressure in the pelvis. This pressure can be translated into Chinese Medicine as stagnation of fluids. There is a famous chinese medicine parable. “Where there is free flow, there is no pain; if there is no free flow there is pain.” For women, blood and fluids can become stuck in the uterus due to blood stagnation, cold or what we call blood deficiency.

This medicine also works synergistically with western medications like birth control to help eliminate any side effects you may be experiencing so there is no contraindication to doing acupuncture when you are also trying other treatments.

A study published in 2017 looked at the treatment of menstrual cramps with acupuncture in 63 patients. The patients who received acupuncture treatment had reduced menstrual pain intensity and duration after three months of treatment. But the best part was that this improvement was sustained for up to one year after the trial ended!

A second study published in 2014, looked at the effectiveness of acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine to help reduce symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and the more severe form of PMS, premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD).The search yielded 19 studies,  8 of which were studies in acupuncture and 11 were studies in herbal medicine. In this review of studies they found acupuncture and herbal medicine treatment for PMS and PMDD caused a 50% or better reduction in symptoms than at the beginning of treatment. And unlike many medications used to treat these conditions, there were no reported negative side effects.

So, do you suffer from cramping ? Acupuncture can help diminish your pain. Feeling irritable just before period? Acupuncture can soothe those emotions. Back Pain? No problem. Acupuncture can help support you, wherever you are in your menstrual cycle.

For more questions or to schedule an appointment, please contact us and ask for Erin, the licensed acupuncturist at The Koa Clinic who specializes in women’s health.


Armour M, Dahlen HG, Zhu X, Farquhar C, Smith CA. The role of treatment timing and mode of stimulation in the treatment of primary dysmenorrhea with acupuncture: An exploratory randomised controlled trial. Scherer RW, ed. PLoS ONE. 2017;12(7):e0180177. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0180177.

Jang SH, Kim DI, Choi M-S. Effects and treatment methods of acupuncture and herbal medicine for premenstrual syndrome/premenstrual dysphoric disorder: systematic review. BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine. 2014;14:11. doi:10.1186/1472-6882-14-11.

Below is a list of common women’s health issues treated here at the Koa Clinic.

Painful Periods (Dysmenorrhea)

No period (Amenorrhea)

Irregular menstrual cycle


Heavy prolonged menses

Pregnancy related pains and complications: Severe morning sickness (hyperemesis gravidarum), placenta previa, low back pain, pelvic/pubic symphysis pain, leg swelling

Excessive vaginal discharge


Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome

Infertility or recurrent miscarriage

Erin Heidrich is an Acupuncturist, Chinese Herbalist and Licensed Massage Therapist practicing at the Koa Clinic. She has a special focus in women’s health and graduated from the Oregon College of Oriental Medicine in Portland, OR. She is mother to Sam and enjoys surfing and swimming in the ocean.

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