Having a period is already inconvenient enough. When your period is painful, things are even worse. I've had to use vacation days and miss important classes because my menstrual cramps were out of control. I was desperate for relief, and the only thing that ended up helping was birth control. But a new study claims that period pain can be managed with acupressure, a powerful self-care technique that can be done at home. Researchers from Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin in Germany studied 221 women with severe period pain. Some were taught how to perform acupressure on themselves through an app, while the others were the control group. After six months of acupressure, 58 percent of participants had reduced period pain, compared to 25 percent of women who weren't practicing acupressure. The study is published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology.
What is acupressure? It's easy to confuse the technique with acupuncture, but they're not the same. According to UCLA, acupuncture uses thin needles, while acupressure involves applying firm pressure to your body. Period pain can manifest in ways other than cramping — periods also bring headaches, nausea and diarrhea, and according to the study, between 50 and 90 percent of young women experience these symptoms. If you're not having much luck with heating pads or medication alone, acupressure may be something worth trying.
The interesting thing about this study is that participants used an app to track their progress and learn acupressure. (The app they used, Luna, is available in German.) Lead study author Prof. Dr. Claudia Witt says in the press release that the women said they preferred using technology. "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." There are several acupressure apps available in the U.S. for both iPhone and Android.
But what does period-focused acupressure look like? While it may sound daunting, it actually is pretty easy to get the hang of. According to Livestrong, applying firm pressure to points on your feet, stomach and back can help with pain. It may sound too good to be true, but this study shows that there is probably some merit to acupressure for period pain. The study found that women who used acupressure relied on medication less, so you may be able to kill two birds with one stone. And if you find a smartphone app that promotes acupressure, it'll send reminders so that you don't forget. Study co-author Dr. Daniel Pach says in the release that the study authors were surprised that the app proved so effective. "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,” he says.
The researchers say that two-thirds of study participants stuck with acupressure even once the study ended. You can also have someone help you apply acupressure, so if you aren't keen on massaging yourself, you should ask a loved one to help you out. Prioritizing self-care when you're on your period is a must, which is why these findings are so interesting. It's a bonus that you don't have to leave the house to feel better. If you have miserable periods, it's worth a try, and it's better than my current plan, which is curling up with a heating pad or warm water bottle and feeling bad for myself.