Acupuncture Better Than Drugs for Menstrual Pain

Suffering from a bad bout of PMS? Time to put down the ibuprofen and visit your local acupuncture clinic. New research shows that acupuncture is more effective than medications for managing severe menstrual pain, or primary dysmenorrhea.

While most women experience menstrual pain at some point in their lives, for some, the pain can be debilitating enough to interfere with work, school, and daily activities. Medical treatment for dysmenorrhea consists of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen which do not always work to effectively reduce severe symptoms.

Two new studies compared the effects of acupuncture to NSAID treatments for dysmenorrhea. In the first study, women who received acupuncture treatments had a greater reduction in pain scores compared to women taking NSAIDs. While 52% of women in the medication group had decreased pain, nearly 70% of women in the acupuncture group had reduced pain.

The other study compared three treatments for dysmenorrhea: ibuprofen, electro-acupuncture plus an herbal supplement called Tao Hong Si Wu Wan, and electro-acupuncture plus a placebo supplement.The women received the treatments for a total of three months and were asked to report their symptoms at the beginning and end of treatment.

Both acupuncture groups had significantly better outcomes at the three and 12-month follow-ups. However, the women who received a combined treatment of acupuncture and herbal supplements had the best pain relief. They also had better long-term relief of symptoms compared to the electro-acupuncture only and ibuprofen groups.

These findings suggest that acupuncture is just as effective, if not better, than common medications for menstrual pain. Acupuncture has also been shown to reduce symptoms of chronic back pain, knee osteoarthritis, and headache.


1. Kiran G, et al. A randomized pilot study of acupuncture treatment for primary dysmenorrhea. European Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology and Reproductive Biology 2013; doi: 10.1016/j.ejogrb.2013.02.016. [E-pub ahead of print].

2. Mio EY, etal. The effects of electroacupuncture and electroacupuncture plus Tao Hong Si Wu Wan (a Herbal Pill) in primary dysmenorrhea: a randomized, double-blinded clinical study in Australia. Journal of Acupuncture and Meridian Studies 2013; [E-pub ahead of print].