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Supported care options
Acupuncture and acupressure for period pain
Acupuncture is a traditional treatment that was first used in China thousands of years ago. Thin needles are inserted into the skin at certain points on the body, which practitioners believe will help restore health. The treatment sometimes also involves heat, pressure, electrical currents or soft-laser light. In the UK, acupuncture is most commonly used for pain relief.
Acupressure involves pressing deeply into particular places on the body that are said to reduce pain elsewhere. One traditional pain relief point can be found by pinching the web of your hand between your thumb and first finger. You have to hold the pressure firmly for half a minute, while breathing slowly and relaxing. This method is safe, free and worth trying.
A recent review of research into acupuncture for period pain suggest that in can help. There is some evidence to support acupressure too. But there is not enough good evidence showing that it can help PMS.
Acupuncture is generally considered to be safe if practised by a trained acupuncturist. The most common problems are slight discomfort (common) and bruising (occasionally).
A session may cost £35-£50. Frequency of treatment will depend on you and your practitioner.
The following professional organisations can help you find a qualified practitioner:
Acupuncture Association of Chartered Physiotherapists
British Academy of Western Medical Acupuncture
British Acupuncture Council
British Medical Acupuncture Society
Psychological therapies for PMS
Counselling and psychotherapy aim to help people change thoughts, feelings and attitudes. Counsellors help you talk about difficult feelings and understand conflict. It can be helpful just to have time alone with a counsellor to talk in confidence about how you feel. Spending time reflecting on problems often brings insight and puts things into perspective. Psychotherapy helps people learn better ways of thinking or behaving that can reduce their symptoms, disability and distress. Some psychotherapists are trained to help you explore possible causes of distress or symptoms in your past. Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is the type of psychotherapy that is currently most widely available in the NHS.
Instead of exploring causes of distress or symptoms in the past (like many other types of therapy), CBT looks for ways to improve your state of mind right now. The therapist does this by helping you spot unhelpful thought processes and change them. The Royal College of Psychiatrists says “CBT can help you to change how you think (‘cognitive’) and what you do (‘behavioural’)”. For instance, CBT can help you make sense of what seem like overwhelming problems by breaking them down into smaller parts. This makes it easier to see how they are connected and how they affect you.
Some studies suggest that psychological therapies may be helpful in PMS. Better, larger studies are needed.
These techniques are generally safe if carried out by or under the guidance of a qualified counsellor or psychologist.
In most areas in the UK your GP can refer you for CBT or a psychological therapist in the NHS. There are often long waiting lists. A session of CBT or psychological therapy may cost between £20-£50. Frequency will depend on you and your therapist. A typical course of CBT lasts between 6-12 weekly sessions.
It is important to find a qualified counsellor or psychologist. Contact The British Psychological Society
Yoga for PMS
Yoga, as taught in the UK, generally includes physical postures or stretches, breathing techniques, meditation and relaxation. There are several different types of yoga. Some of them are mainly based on the physical exercises (some types are much more strenuous than others). Others focus more on meditation.
There is some evidence from research that yoga can help ease PMS symptoms.
Yoga is generally safe when practised appropriately and at the right level. Classes are run for different ability levels so look for one that is right for you. Yoga stretches should be increased slowly. If in doubt, check with your doctor, osteopath or physiotherapist. Avoid with severe osteoporosis or acute joint or back pain, or recent injuries.
Once you have learned the techniques you can do this at home, at no cost.
Classes are run in most areas by both private tutors and by adult education services.