Acupressure is a simple and effective form of self-care to relive period pains. [Photo: Bigstock]

Acupressure self-care relieves painful periods

5 April, 2018

Natural Health News — Most women will experience menstrual cramps at some point in their lives. Some can mild, but some can be severe and incapacitating and reliable relief can be hard to find.

Now researchers from Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin, have found that an app which provides visual guidance on effective acupuncture points could help ease the pain and give women a sense of control.

Period pains primarily manifest as lower abdominal cramping, other symptoms include headache, backache, nausea and diarrhoea.

Acupressure is a technique derived from traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). In contrast to acupuncture, this technique can be used as a form of self-care and is suitable for use at home. Rather than using needles, this technique involves massage or pressure being applied to specific points on the body.

Is there an app for that?

The researchers wanted to evaluate whether self-acupressure would be more effective at achieving a sustained reduction in menstrual pain than usual care alone (e.g. pain medication and hormonal contraceptives).

Quick summary

» Menstrual pain and cramping affects most women to some degree. For those with severe pains relief can be hard to find.

» German researchers recently tested an app that taught women how to apply acupressure to specific points known to relieve menstrual pain.

» After 6 months, more than half of the women practicing acupressure experienced a 50% reduction in period pains – more than double the number in the non-app group.

A total of 221 women (aged 18-34) suffering from severe menstrual pain were randomly assigned to one of two treatment groups, both of which received a study app, called AKUD (or Luna, in English),  which included visualisation of the menstrual cycle, questionnaires, and diaries for both groups as well as a short introduction.

Additional acupressure-based features – with instructions on how to administer self-acupressure shortly before and during menstruation – were only made available to the intervention group. One advantage of an app, the researchers found, was its ability to provide visual descriptions of the pressure points users need to target in order to achieve the desired effect. It can also send regular reminders. Additionally, the app was used to collect all study-related data.

“Initially, we simply wanted to conduct a study on the use of self-care techniques for menstrual pain. However, the women who were involved during the planning stages, all of whom were affected by menstrual pain, wanted an app,” reports the study’s principal investigator, Professor Dr Claudia Witt of the Institute of Social Medicine, Epidemiology and Health Economics. The app helped participants to apply simple self-acupressure techniques to three different acupressure points.

Significant reductions in pain

Writing in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, the researchers report that after three months, 37% of participants in the acupressure group reported a 50% reduction in pain intensity.

After six months, this proportion had increased to more than half of the women in this group (58%). Only 25% of women in the control group reported a similar reduction in pain intensity at both the 3-month and 6-month marks. Women in the acupressure group also used less pain medication than women in the control group and reported lower levels of pain overall.

“We were surprised to see that, after six months, two thirds of participants continued to use self-acupressure. So far, research into the clinical effectiveness of apps has been limited, and only a few have been tested using randomised controlled trials,” says co-author Dr Daniel Pach of the Institute of Social Medicine, Epidemiology and Health Economics. He adds: “We were able to show that apps can be evaluated in a clinical trial setting. However, despite our experience with conventional clinical trials, there was a lot for us to learn – something we found both exciting and eye-opening.”

The Institute for Complementary and Integrative Medicine, University Zurich which developed the app used in the study is now working on an English language version that will work for both android and IOS.


  • See related articles, left, for more information on  relieving period pains.