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Heather Hanks
Written by Heather Hanks

Reviewed by Dr Jessica Gunawan on November 24, 2022

Can Acupressure Help Relieve Period Cramps?

Acupressure can help reduce period cramps by unblocking meridians and promoting blood flow. Best of all, you can do these right at home as needed.

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Did you know that approximately 80% of women will experience period cramps at one point in their life? As many as 10% of these women experience such severe pain that it disrupts their life.

This may include missing work or being unable to participate in everyday activities until the pain goes away.

For many women, over-the-counter medications do not work. They may even cause unwanted side effects that add to your symptoms.

In this guide, we’ll explain how acupressure and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) can be used to help alleviate period cramps.

How To Treat Period Cramps With TCM

In 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 contain the following: 

  • Ginseng (Ren Shen), atractylodes (Bai Zhu), and astragalus (Huang Qi) to strengthen a weak constitution
  • Cervus nippon (Mei Hua Lu), cinnamon (Ro Gui), and Eucommia ulmoides (Du Zhong) to nourish the body
  • Chinese herbs Angelica sinensis (Dang Gui), white peony root (Bai Shao), Szechwan Lovage Rhizome (Chuan Xiong), motherwort (Yi Mu Cao), and Cyperus rotundus (Xiang Fu) 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 restores balance to the body. Acupressure works similarly but makes use of manual pressure on acupuncture acupoints. This makes it a practice you can do yourself.

Acupoints That 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. Below, we list 6 acupoints to help alleviate period pain.

1. Tai Chong (LR3)

On the dorsum of the foot, in the depression proximal to the 1st 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 characterized by period cramps, lower abdominal pain, and breast tenderness. 

2. San Yin Jiao (SP6)

On the inner lower leg, 4-fingers-breadth above the tip of the inner ankle bone, just behind the shin bone.

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, gynecological, and urinary diseases. This acupoint is used to help with the relief of dysmenorrhea. 

3. Yin Ling Quan (SP9)

Near the medial aspect of the lower leg, in the depression of the lower border of the medial condyle of the tibia. 

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 metabolization. A blocked or stagnant Yin Ling Quan (which feels tender and swollen when pressed) is characterized by dysmenorrhea, pain in the genitals, incontinence, diarrhea, gas, bloating, and sluggishness. 

4. Di Ji (SP8)

On the tibial aspect of the leg, posterior to the medial border of the tibia

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 gynecological 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 diarrhea.

5. Yin Bao (LR9)

Located 4 finger widths above the medial epicondyle of the femur, between the vastus medialis and sartorius.

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)

On the dorsum of the hand, between the 1st and 2nd metacarpal bones.

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 well-being. 

How To Activate Acupressure Points

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 well-being.

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/>
  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/
  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/
  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/>
  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
  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
  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>
  10. Acupuncture Nepal. 2018. Yinbao LR9: Nomenclature, Location, Functions, Indications. [Online] Available at <https://www.acupuncturenepal.com/yinbao-lr9-nomenclature-location-functions-indications.html>  
  11. TCM Wiki. 2015. Hegu. [Online] Available at <https://tcmwiki.com/wiki/hegu
  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/

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