This recent summary provides a technical account of how traditional Chinese Medicine can alleviate period pain. The researchers found that, in all cases, acupuncture leads to a significant reduction in the intensity and duration of menstrual pain after three months of treatment, and the results were sustained one year after trial entry.
There are a variety of theories regarding the mechanisms by which TCM therapies can relieve pain from dysmenorrhea. Armour et al. suggest there are “plausible mechanisms of action for acupuncture to improve primary dysmenorrhea, including endogenous opioid release, reduction of inflammation, alterations in uterine blood flow and changes in prostaglandin levels.”  In a study conducted by Yang et al. to investigate the efficacy of moxibustion at the acupoints CV4 (Guanyuan), CV8 (Shenque), and SP6 (Sanyinjiao), the researchers found that pain levels decreased over the three month trial, and that the therapeutic effect of moxibustion was sustained in the three months after the trial ended. Through blood tests, the researchers also found that moxibustion decreased levels of both PGF2 and PGE2, which allows for increased blood flow and decreased contractility of the uterus.  Heat is also well understood to regulate menstrual pain — “an abdominal heat wrap was found to be as effective as ibuprofen, and more effective than acetaminophen in relieving dysmenorrheic pain”  — and thus it is not surprising that heat from moxa, especially directly over the abdomen, would be similarly effective for inducing vessel dilation and increasing blood flow to decrease pain.  The acupoint SP6 (Sanyinjiao) may be distal, but it is effective for the treatment of dysmenorrhea, “likely due to the fact that SP6 is segmental to the uterus… This segmental activation at the level of sacral spinal nerve 2 (S2) may lead to reflex sympathetic inhibition of the uterus resulting in increased uterine blood flow.”
The most important result of this study, and others like it, is that menstrual pain is not inevitable. Many women may feel that medications — either NSAIDs or oral contraceptives — are their only option for treating their monthly symptoms, but acupuncture has been shown to be equally effective, and its effects last long after the course of treatment. Additionally, TCM practitioners provide individualized advice that helps women take an active role in caring for themselves. Acupuncture can provide a safe and effective alternative to medications. This study shows that the abdominal pain and emotional symptoms of primary dysmenorrhea can be addressed with TCM, and it will hopefully empower women to address their menstrual pain holistically and efficiently.
This new research study demonstrates that sleeplessness can be positively helped with acupuncture. The study’s conclusion is that ‘Acupuncture treatment is more effective than sham acupuncture treatment in increasing insomnia patients’ sleep quality and improving their psychological health’. The study was a single-center, single-blinded, and randomized controlled clinical trial. Seventy-two patients with primary insomnia were randomly assigned into two groups – the acupuncture group, who received acupuncture treatment, and the control group, who received sham acupuncture treatment. Thanks once again to Mel Kopperman of the Evidence Based Acupuncture website.
This infographic shows the amount of sleep each of us should be getting.
Here is my lovely new clinic room in the beautifully named Energise Centre in Salford 6. Nudge patients will recognise the little touches I’ve brought with me from Hulme including the elephants, the Nepali cushion for pulse-taking and the slow cooker! All patients are welcome – both new and old. The sliding scale still applies – pay what you can afford between £15 and £45.
Lovely affirmative comments about Nudge Acupuncture have been coming in.
As I prepare my Annual Review for 2016 – 17 I have asked patients to provide a commentary on their treatment. This is always a delight and sometimes I get unexpected comments back. See below for a selection:
Thank you for your “magic hands” and great conversations in our sessions”
“Nudge Acupuncture has helped me sleep better, move on from my past, feel happier day to day, make decisions easier and rid period pains! Fantastic!”
“I have enjoyed learning about this Chinese approach and watching Penny’s skilful techniques. The combination of needles and foot massage seems to have helped with my migraines, foot tightness and general health. many thanks.”
“Nudge improves mental, emotional and physical wellbeing immeasurably, giving me vital understanding of what I need to feel well where overs have failed. Thank you!”
Acupuncture helped me get through work related stress, redundancy and two bereavements. I now understand when my body needs ‘me’ time and don’t feel guilty for taking it!
“Like a miracle my migraines disappeared within three sessions and despite now going for a treatment less often they have not returned. Fingers crossed and thank you Penny!”
I feel so supported to think of my body as an organism that can heal itself, given a little ‘nudge’. It’s been a revelation.
Thanks as always to my lovely patients in Sale, Hulme and Moss Side and now in Salford.
Published yesterday this thoughtful article about the endorphins that acupuncture needles release, and how their effects can now be measured. It also describes how the results of acupuncture differ from placebo effects. Interesting.
“A new generation of brain imaging studies is suggesting that perhaps researchers should refine their testing methods. There are now several trials showing that even when patients in acupuncture and placebo groups report similar drops in pain, the physical effects of treatment can be very different.
For example, Richard Harris, a neuroscientist at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and colleagues used brain scans to investigate whether acupuncture triggers an endorphin hit in the same way that placebos do. They gave fibromyalgia patients – a condition characterised by chronic, widespread pain – either real or placebo acupuncture (using retractable needles at non-acupuncture points) then scanned their brains using positron emission tomography (PET) imaging. PET scans can’t see endorphins directly, but can detect the opioid receptors that these molecules target. Opioid receptors are present on the surface of nerve cells in the brain. When “locked” by endorphins (or other opioid molecules such as morphine), they prevent the cell from sending pain signals. In Harris’s experiment, a drop in the number of free, or unlocked, receptors in the patients’ brains would show that endorphins had been released.
After a single acupuncture session, as well as over a month-long course of treatment, both groups of patients reported a similar reduction in pain. In the placebo group, the PET scans did indeed show fewer free opioid receptors in areas of the brain associated with the regulation of pain, suggesting their pain relief was caused by endorphins. Harris assumed that in the real acupuncture group, he’d see something similar. “I expected that we would probably see the exact same thing between real and sham acupuncture, or that acupuncture might do it better,” he says. Instead, he saw the opposite. Within 45 minutes of the needling session, the number of free opioid receptors in the patients’ brains didn’t fall; it surged. “I was completely floored,” he says. Whatever the acupuncture was doing, it wasn’t working as a placebo.”
Still – the photo is ridiculous! Come on Guardian picture desk -you can do better than this!
Just watched Ill Behaviour on BBC I-Player. Click here to go straight to Episode 1. And acupuncture gets a mention in the first episode! Admittedly its the first in a long line of “alternative healing methods” for cancer, but every mention has to be good. Right?
Its about a bloke with Hodgkins Lymphoma who has (rather stupidly?) decided to eschew Western medicine responses to his condition. I don’t condone this approach to aggressive cancers by the way.
Its quite funny to boot.