Massage These Acupuncture Points to Relieve Period Cramps

Many women experience dysmenorrhoea with symptoms that are mild to severe. This article lists acupuncture points to massage to reduce period cramps and discomfort.

A young woman touching her stomach with her hands due to period cramps

If you’re one of the 80% of women who’ve experienced dysmenorrhoea at some point in your life, then you’re probably familiar with at least one of the following symptoms — period cramps, lower back pain, pelvic pain, nausea, headache, or diarrhoea. Usually, women take painkillers to ease painful periods, ranging from mild to more severe. If your symptoms are serious or seem to get worse each cycle, you should consult with a physician for treatment. But for mild or occasional cramps, acupuncture points may help ease discomfort and reduce pain. 

Reduce Period Cramps with Traditional Chinese Medicine 

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), herbal medicine and acupuncture help manage symptoms of painful periods. With herbal medicine, a combination of herbs can provide a well-rounded approach to relieving menstrual discomfort. Bak Foong pills (白凤丸) contain ginseng (ren shen, 人参), atractylodes (bai zhu, 白术), and astragalus (huang qi, 黄芪) to strengthen a weak constitution; Cervus nippon (mei hua lu, 梅花鹿), cinnamon (ro gui, 肉桂), and Eucommia ulmoides (du zhong, 杜仲)to nourish the body; and Chinese herbs Angelica sinensis (dang gui, 当归), white peony root (bai shao, 白芍), chuan xiong (川芎), motherwort (yi mu cao, 益母草), and Cyperus rotundus (xiang fu, 香附) to relieve period cramps. 

In acupuncture, stimulating certain points in the body with fine needles helps restore the flow of qi (life force or energy) and bring balance back to the body. Acupressure works similarly to acupuncture but makes use of manual pressure on acupuncture points (acupoints), making it a practice you can do yourself. Here, we list 6 acupoints to help alleviate period pain. 

Acupoints to Help Relieve Period Cramps 

Taking painkillers and covering the abdomen with a heating pad are the most common methods to reduce discomfort during menstruation. But for a more natural approach, acupressure massage can be ideal. It requires no tools and is easy enough for anyone to do. Let’s see which acupoints can help you be free from period cramps. 

1. Tai chong (LR3, 太沖)

3D illustration of the Taichong (LV3) acupressure point
Located on the dorsum of the foot, in the depression proximal to the first metatarsal space. 

Location: On the dorsum of the feet on both sides, between the junction of the metatarsal bones of the first and second toes. It feels sore when pressed.  

Benefit: This acupoint works to correct a stagnant Liver qi, soothing and spreading it, making it helpful for regulating the menstrual cycle. Blocked Liver qi is characterised by period cramps, lower abdominal pain, and breast tenderness. 

2. San yin jiao (SP6, 三阴交)

An illustration of a right foot, showing san yin jiao (SP6) acupressure point
Massaging the acupuncture point san yin jiao can help relieve period cramps.

Location: It is 3 inches above the inner ankles on both sides. To quickly select this acupoint, bring the four fingers together and place it on the tip of the inner ankle (as shown in the picture).

Benefit: San yin jiao is where the Liver, Spleen, and Kidney meridians meet in the body and is commonly used in treating gastrointestinal, gynaecological, and urinary diseases. This acupoint is used to help with the relief of dysmenorrhoea. 

3. Yin ling quan (SP9, 阴陵泉)

An illustration of a right leg, showing yin ling quan (SP9) acupressure point
Massaging the yin ling quan acupoint helps dispel Damp-Heat and ease period pain.

Location: In the depression on the inner side of the calf and the inner and lower side of the knee (the inner and lower side of the tibia), on both the left and right legs. 

Benefit: Regulates the Spleen, helps open the passage of water as it promotes its circulation, and is an acupoint that can resolve Dampness. Dampness in TCM describes what happens when the Spleen and Stomach aren’t working in harmony. This affects digestion, the absorption of nutrients and water, and food metabolisation. A blocked or stagnant yin ling quan (which feels tender and swollen when pressed) is characterised by dysmenorrhoea, pain in the genitals, incontinence, diarrhoea, gas, bloating, and sluggishness. 

4. Di ji (SP8, 地机)

Location: Di ji (SP8) lies three inches below yin ling quan (SP9). To quickly find it, you can bring four fingers together and place it under yin ling quan.

Benefit: The di ji acupoint is used to treat gastrointestinal and gynaecological diseases and can help fortify the Spleen. Activating a stagnant di ji acupoint helps treat the symptoms of irregular periods, cramps, and stomach problems like abdominal pain and diarrhoea.

5. Yin bao (LR9, 阴包)

An illustration of a person running, showing yin bao (LR9) acupressure point
Activating the yin bao (LR9) acupoint can help with painful periods, light or heavy menstrual flow, and irregular cycles.

Location: Yin bao (LR9) is on the inner thigh, four inches directly above the knee (medial epicondyle of the femur). It lies on the upper part of the inner thigh, between the vastus medialis and the sartorius muscles. To locate it, bend your knees, and with all five fingers together, place your hand below the inner knee bone, facing towards your upper thigh. Where your hand ends on the upper, inner thigh is the location of the yin bao acupoint. 

Benefit: This acupoint helps regulate menstruation by promoting the flow of Liver qi and blood. It is beneficial for period cramps, excessive bleeding, back pain, and disorders of the urinary system. 

6. He gu (LI4, 合谷)

An illustration of a left hand, showing he gu (LI4) acupressure point
The he gu (LI4) acupoint is often massaged to relieve pain throughout the body such as headaches and toothaches.

Location: He gu, the Tiger’s Mouth (hu kuo) of the hand, is the semi-circle formed by the thumb and your index finger. It is between the 1st and the 2nd metacarpal bones, an area that depresses like a valley. 

Benefit: This is the main acupoint for disorders of the head, face, and the organs of the five senses. Many people use this acupoint to relieve pain throughout the body, such as headaches, which women also experience during their period. This acupoint also helps treat all Heat and pain syndromes for an overall sense of wellbeing. 

How to Activate Acupressure Points in Your Daily Life 

Once you’re familiar with these acupressure points, you’ll find it easier to locate them. To stimulate them, simply press or massage them for one to three minutes when you feel the beginnings of pain. How much pressure you apply depends on how sore the area feels. You may be comfortable starting with a light touch and eventually using firmer pressure. You can begin a regular practice of massaging these acupressure points once to twice daily. 

Stimulating these acupoints habitually can help the flow of your qi, promote blood circulation, and regulate your menstrual cycle while helping relieve period cramps. Not only do they help ease menstrual aches, but they also benefit other parts of the body. Combining an acupressure massage practice with a healthy diet, exercise, and enough sleep will go a long way to support your overall health and wellbeing.

References

  1. Women’s Health Concern. Reviewed November 2019. Period Pain. [Online] Available at: <https://www.womens-health-concern.org/help-and-advice/factsheets/period-pain/> [Accessed 27, June 2022] 
  2. National Center for Biotechnology Information. 2020. Assessment of clinical efficacy of traditional Chinese medicine for the management of primary dysmenorrhea in the UK. [Online] Available at <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7676542/> [Accessed 27, June 2022] 
  3. National Center for Biotechnology Information. 2011. Acupuncture to Treat Primary Dysmenorrhea in Women: A Randomized Controlled Trial. [Online] Available at <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3140031/> [Accessed 27, June 2022] 
  4. National Center for Biotechnology Information. 2017. Contemporary acupressure therapy: Adroit cure for painless recovery of therapeutic ailments. [Online] Available at <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5388088/> [Accessed 28, June 2022] 
  5. Science Direct. 2021. Manipulation, Traction, and Massage in Braddom’s Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (Sixth Edition). [Online] Available at: <https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/medicine-and-dentistry/acupressure> [Accessed 28, June 2022] 
  6. Acupuncture Nepal. 2018. Taichong LR3: Nomenclature, Location, Function, Indication. [Online] Available at <https://www.acupuncturenepal.com/taichong-lr3.html> [Accessed 27, June 2022] 
  7. TCM Wiki. 2014. Sanyinjiao. [Online] Available at <https://tcmwiki.com/wiki/sanyinjiao> [Accessed 27, June 2022] 
  8. Acupuncture Technology News. Acupuncture Point: Spleen 9 (SP 9). [Online] Available at <https://www.miridiatech.com/news/2016/05/acupuncture-point-spleen-9/> [Accessed 27, June 2022] 
  9. Acupuncture Nepal. 2018. Diji SP8: Nomenclature, Location, Function, Indication. [Online] Available at <https://www.acupuncturenepal.com/diji-sp8.html> [Accessed 27, June 2022] 
  10. Acupuncture Nepal. 2018. Yinbao LR9: Nomenclature, Location, Functions, Indications. [Online] Available at <https://www.acupuncturenepal.com/yinbao-lr9-nomenclature-location-functions-indications.html> [Accessed 27, June 2022] 
  11. TCM Wiki. 2015. Hegu. [Online] Available at <https://tcmwiki.com/wiki/hegu> [Accessed 27, June 2022] 
  12. National Center for Biotechnology Information. 2009. Traditional Chinese medicine Bak Foong Pills alters uterine quiescence – possible role in alleviation of dysmenorrhoeal symptoms. [Online] Available at <https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19341810/> [Accessed 30, June 2022] 

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