Women today do everything, from CEO to Mom of the Year, best friend, engineer and astronaut, there’s a lot on our plates, and for many once a month (give or take) menstrual cramps are the less than desirable icing on the cake. Dull achy pain that can go from mild annoyance to crippling and debilitating has been felt by most women at some point in their lifetime and for about 10 in every 100, this pain can be so debilitating that all daily activities have to be put on hold. Painful periods aka dysmenorrhea can be caused by the feeling of the uterus tightening during menstruation or from a secondary cause like endometriosis, growths or cysts and some types of IUDs, but no matter the cause, the pain is still very real. For those wanting a more natural remedy that you can do literally anywhere, acupressure might be the answer!
Acupressure works by stimulating acupuncture points located on the energetic meridians of the body, by doing this we can activate the healing qualities of that point and help our body regulate and heal itself by moving the natural energy or Qi in our body. Acupuncture is very effective and usually less painful than acupressure because the needles go into the point and are very precise, so when doing acupressure it’s important to press deeply and firmly so that you feel a nice sore ache at the point. Press and hold each point for 30 seconds to 1 minute, rest for 30 seconds and repeat up to four times, you can repeat as needed throughout the day.
If you were to see an Acupuncturist for chronic menstrual cramps you would receive a diagnosis and treatment based on your unique presentation and associated symptoms. So while menstrual pain is the chief complaint, the reason you are experiencing this pain is a crucial part of the treatment and also what makes treatments very effective. The following points are all empirical points for menstrual pain and can be used for any root cause or pattern as a good on the go self treatment. But if you’re experiencing chronic and debilitating symptoms make sure to see your Gynecologist to rule out more serious causes and seeking out individual treatments from a Licensed Acupuncturist may be a great way to get more relief than self treatments alone.
Spleen 6 - ‘Three Yin Intersection’
Spleen 6 is located about 3 finger widths above the tip of the medial malleolus (inner ankle bone) in the center of the calf. If you run your finger up from the medial malleolus you’ll likely notice an indentation at that point that feels softer or deeper than the rest of the leg. This point is a powerful point for anyone who has additional symptoms of fatigue, digestive issues, anxiety or dizziness. It helps alleviate cramping by affecting all 3 meridians that have direct influence on the reproductive system, the Spleen, Kidney and Liver and by tonifying the energy of those systems. It helps move Qi and Blood in the reproductive system which helps reduce the feelings of cramps and pain. This point is contraindicated in pregnant patients because of its strong effect on the uterus.
Spleen 8 - ‘Earth’s Crux’
Spleen 8 is located about 5 fingers below the knee joint on the inner side of the leg in the same line with Spleen 6 and the medial malleolus. Spleen 8 is the ‘Xi Cleft’ point of the Spleen Meridian which means it’s a great point for treating acute and sudden conditions. This point has one purpose: to help relieve acute and painful menstruation! It’s especially effective if your periods are heavy, clotted or irregular.
Spleen 10 - ‘Sea of Blood’
To find Spleen 10, find the kneecap and measure it with your fingers, now move the measured distance up from the kneecap and to the medial side of the thigh. Spleen 10 is helpful for any gynecological issues and can help with irregular periods, painful periods, PMS, irregular uterine bleeding and even help with the feeling of an impending UTI.
Large Intestine 4 - ‘Union Valley’
Large Intestine 4 is more commonly known for its treatment of headaches, but this point offers a lot of therapeutic actions! It’s the Yuan Source point of the Large Intestine channel and the Entry Point for the channel, which means that it’s the source and beginning point of the vital energy for the channel, and as such it is very powerful. Find LI 4 by pinching the soft tissue between the thumb and forefinger on the hand, directly in the center of the triangle we could draw in that space. LI 4 directly influences the circulation of Qi and Blood, when these two vital life forces as stagnated or blocked, the main symptom is pain. This point also helps promote labor because of its significant role in moving Qi and Blood, it helps promote smooth muscle contraction and as such, can help ease menstrual cramps and is also contraindicated in pregnancy because of its strong effect.
Kidney 5 - ‘Water Spring’
Find the inner ankle bone and then pinch the soft tissue between it and the achilles tendon, then move down about 1 finger width to the next subtle indentation in the tissue, this is Kidney 5. Kidney 5 is the Xi-Cleft point of the Kidney meridian, meaning it’s a go to for acute problems and is helpful for menstrual issues like absent and delayed periods, painful periods, a sensation of oppression below the heart at onset of menstruation and uterine prolapse.
Liver 3 - ‘Great Surge’
Liver 3 is located in a similar position to Large Intestine 4 but on the foot, between the big toe and second toe in the middle of the soft tissue you will find a pretty sensitive point: Liver 3. The Liver is responsible for the smooth flow of energy through the body, and when it gets stuck we can experience pain but also irritability and other emotional imbalances. Liver 3 is the Shu Stream and Source point of the Liver meridian, Shu Stream points helps with pain specifically and the Source point is beneficial for any issue with the associated organ system. This point is another powerhouse like LI 4 and they are often used together for an extra calming effect, it can be used for PMS, irritability, painful periods, breast tenderness and absent periods.
If you are suffering from menstrual cramps, irregularities and other problems, seeking out acupuncture treatments from a professional can provide a great relief and improvement of symptoms. The above acupressure points are useful when we're on the go and not able to make it for a treatment, but there's no replacement for a treatment from a professional. If you're in the Marin County area and would like to schedule an appointment with Dr. Kim please BOOK NOW!
1: InformedHealth.org [Internet]. Cologne, Germany: Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG); 2006-. Period pain: Overview. 2008 Feb 22 [Updated 2016 Jul 1].Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK279324/
Dr. Kim Peirano, DACM, LAc is the Owner and Acupuncturist at Lion's Heart Wellness, the San Francisco Bay Area and Marin's #1 Cosmetic Acupuncturist and #1 Holistic Healer.