Researchers say an extensive review of past studies has found that acupuncture may be helpful in alleviating menstrual cramps, which affects up to half of all young women, Reuters reported.
A team from the Oriental Hospital at Kyung Hee University Medical Center in South Korea conducted a review of 27 studies that involved nearly 3,000 women and found that acupuncture may be more effective than drugs or herbal medicines.
The researchers said there is convincing evidence on the effectiveness of using acupuncture to treat pain as it stimulates the production of endorphins and serotonin in the central nervous system.
Endorphins are compounds produced naturally by the human body during exercise and excitement and they result in a feeling of well-being. Serotonin is a brain chemical.
The study, published in the latest issue of the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, said acupuncture was associated with a significant reduction in pain, compared with pharmacological treatment or herbal medicine.
Acupuncture is also cited as a possibly effective way of dealing with menstrual cramps, according to the U.S. National Institutes of Health.
It is unknown exactly what causes menstrual cramps, and for some women, the pain — accompanied by bloating, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, dizziness and headache — can become more severe or may last longer as they grow older.
Around 10 percent of younger women have bad enough menstrual pain that they cannot go to work, resulting in billions of dollars in lost wages and productivity on the job annually.
Exercise, painkillers and applying heat to the lower abdomen are a few common treatments, but acupuncture has also become the subject of discussion and investigation.
The researchers did, however, note several flaws in the methodology of some studies and called for more clinical trials to be done.
The Chinese have used acupuncture as a form of anesthesia for at least 2,600 years and experts believe it can clear blockages in circulation.
Many doctors trained in western medicine are turning to acupuncture for their patients as a complementary treatment to help relieve pain.
Traditional acupuncturists insert needles in acupuncture points located along what they describe as “energy meridians” – a concept for which many scientists say there is no evidence.
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