Period Relief: 4 Acupressure Points For PMS
Alright, ladiezzzzz. We’ve all been there. Everything is fineeee and dandy. You feel vital, energized, toned, attractive (oooh the pure magic of the ovulation stage of the month *praise hands*) …. And boom. outta left field, you feel crabby, sluggish, bloated, and like you want to eat a cupcake or 87. One minute you are tired and just wanting to be alone, the next minute you are craving cuddles, compliments, and are tearing up at an All-State commercial. You, my friend, are on the wild roller coaster ride of PMS.
Now, to be completely honest with ya…. I’m not going to pretend I hate my period. Because I don’t. Never have-- never will. I don’t know what it is, but I’ve always been able to find the naturalness and ease in my cycle. I don’t dread it, I don’t hate it- in fact, I find a whole lotta beauty in this monthly cycle. It really is remarkable that on this intuitive level, our body is regulating, creating, managing, shedding… it is really magic.
….can you tell i’m writing this during my ovulatory “everything is lovely” phase???? Ask me again in 7-9 days.
That said, although I can appreciate the magic of womanhood- that doesn’t mean that I am immune to the bloating, mood swings, and energy shifts of PMS. and that’s where these 4 acupressure points come in. I took an acupressure course this past winter and was blown away by this modality: free, comforting, accessible, and effective. (Just wait until you hear about the research studies I’m gonna share with ya!) Giddy up-- because I’m gonna teach you how to manage that crampy, bloaty, emotional time with ease.
First Things First…. What’s Acupressure?
You may be more familiar with acupressure’s cousin, acupuncture. Both modalities are very similar in the fact that they focus on applying pressure to certain points on the body to help regulate any qi energy blockages or stagnation. They focus on “meridians” of the body (AKA certain paths in which energy flows) and attempts to realign, reduce blockages, and fight stagnation of energy. I know, i know-- it sounds woo woo. And it is. But it’s also backed by research and tradition. so stay with me.
I personally fully believe in the power of my own body to heal, regulate, and find health and I believe energy is a major part of that-- but! I do understand that many of my Western nursing friends, docs, PAs, engineer friends may be rolling their eyes. And that’s okay! Health is all about finding what works for you. I am an advocate for holistic health. But I’m not anti-medication. Or anti-surgery. Or anti-hospitals. Heck, i am a nurse that has worked and trained in an ICU. modern medicine is nothing short of a miracle. I always want this blog to be about the INTEGRATION of Western and Eastern med. I may be studying integrative health, but trust me, if I have a heart attack or break my femur, you better believe I’m not gonna treat it with lavender essential oil, sis. (Get my ass to the emergency room asap, plz.)
BUT! the miracle of modern medicine aside, there is a whoooooole world of natural, traditional medicine practices that work. they are often cost-effective, low-risk, and very easy to use. In my opinion, Western med is phenomenal at the “emergency” and foundational health matters- but when it comes to managing “everyday” problems like periods, weight, stress, adrenal fatigue, sleep— integrative health is where it’s at! I never want to seem like integrative health is the “only way” to health. Because it’s not. but, that said, it is an insanely helpful tool in cultivating your best, most vibrant healthy life.
If you are someone wanting natural, free habits that empower your body’s innate health, you’re gonna love acupressure! If it seems out there for you-- I challenge you to just try it once! Maybe you’ll love, maybe you won’t-- but as with anything, you don’t know unless you try :) whew! That was a rant, but that felt good to type. Long story short: there is not “one” path to health, and I urge you to be open to finding the blend of Western and Eastern that works for you :)
How Do You Do It?
Accupressure is beautifully intuitive. It is based on finding certain pressure points and activating them. In this blog post, you will hear me say “Spleen 8” or “Small Intestine 4”— these are just the way acupressure points are named. Once I name the “spot”, you will find that pressure point on your body and use your thumbs/fingers to massage the area and hold firm but comfortable pressure. I like to make small circles and gently massage the area while locating my pressure points. (you can also rub skin over the area briskly, tap the area, etc. it’s very intuitive! Do what feels right!) After applying pressure for anywhere from three deep breaths to 90 seconds, you might feel tenderness beginning to subside. Repeat as necessary. 1-3 cycles is usually perfect for me. simple enough, right?
For Headaches (And Cramps)…
If nothing else, start with this pressure point! This is one of the most common acupressure points-- and it is SO easy to find and to use. It is called Large Intestine 4 (LI4) and it is located in the soft webbing between your thumb and pointer finger. (CAUTION: do not use this point if you are pregnant as it is correlated with inducing labor !!!) LI4 is commonly used for migraines and headaches but can also be used for pain experienced anywhere in the body. As if that wasn’t enough it also helps with period cramps. It is such a versatile point! How to use this point: find a tender spot on the webbing between the thumb and pointer. Find the tender indent in the flesh and that's the spot. Press these points on each hand firmly for 60- to 90-second intervals, while breathing deeply in through the nose and out through the mouth. This is an intense point (it is tender for pretty much everyone!), but wow oh wow does it help!
LARGE INTESTINE 4:
I loooooved this study. It was a single, blind, randomized clinical trial performed on 100 women in active labor. (3–4 cm dilatation of cervix with regular uterine contractions). The group of women (n=50) who received acupressure on the LI4 during their uterine contractions reported significantly less subjective labor pain scores immediately and 20, 60, and 120 minutes after the intervention (P≤ .001) than their counterparts who did not receive the acupressure. Not only that, but their labor time was shorter (I’ve never given birth, but holy crap this is a bonus!) than the non-acupressure group. Annnnd the cherry on top? The women in the acupressure group reported greater satisfaction with their labor experience.
REFERENCE: Hamidzadeh, A., Shahpourian, F., Orak, R. J., Montazeri, A. S., & Khosravi, A. (2012). Effects of LI4 acupressure on labor pain in the first stage of labor. Journal of Midwifery & Women’s Health, 57(2), 133-138.
To Help Regulate Your Emotions…
Liver 3 (LV3) is a potent point known to move stagnant emotional energy. This point has long been used to help with anger, frustration, hopelessness, emotional roller coasters, cramping pain, breast tenderness, and heat sensations in the abdomen. AKA- it is a period life-saver. LV3 is another relatively easy place to find. Locate this point: LV3 is found in the tender webbing between the knuckles of the big and second toe. (think of it as the “foot” version of SI4!). Press the point on each foot firmly, for 60- to 90-second intervals while breathing deeply in through the nose and out through the mouth. (Bonus!!! Not only does this help with emotional regulation, this point is also shown to reduce cramping!)
RESEARCH ON LIVER 3:
To give you a lil more info on LV3, I found this study so interesting. This study was focus on a college university addressing PMS by use of a randomized single blinded clinical trial. The sample (n=90), women age 18-45, were randomly divided into 3 groups of 30. One of the groups used pressure point LV3, one used LI4, and one was a placebo group (there were told to press on a '“fake” acupressure spot that is not actually in line with an energy meridian). Their PMS symptoms, quality of life, and anxiety and depression were screened before and after the intervention. Participants were trained to apply pressure at their acupressure point for 20 minutes on and off, once per day. Results showed a significant decrease in PMS symptoms, depression and anxiety, in the LIV3 and LI4 groups, as well as an increase on the quality of life scale assessment, after the intervention in the second and third cycles (p<0.05).
Bazarganipour, F., Taghavi, S.-A., Allan, H., Beheshti, F., Khalili, A., Miri, F., … Salari, S. (2017). The effect of applying pressure to the LIV3 and LI4 on the symptoms of premenstrual syndrome: A randomized clinical trial. Complementary Therapies in Medicine, 31, 65–70.
Quit Crampin’ My Style…
Alright, next up is the pressure point named Spleen 8. (don’t worry— i’ll explain where it is!) This point is an absolute must for helping with intense menstrual cramps. It runs along the tender channel on the inner aspect of the tibia bone, which gives a lot of relief when massaged. Spend your time massaging in and around this point. To locate this point: find the knee crease on the inner leg and trace your finger down the tibia bone about 5 to 7 inches until you find a very tender spot. This spot should be a muscley/tendon like area next to a bone. Rub and hold in 60- to 90-second intervals on both sides of the leg; massage the whole tender area on the inside of the shin bone until you feel relief. Continue the breathing in through the nose and out through the mouth.
RESEARCH ON SPLEEN 8
In my acupressure class, I focused my studies on acupressure for period symptoms and one research study that I focused on was this one. In a nutshell: they looked at how two different pressure points had an effect on primary dysmenorrhea (cramping pain in the lower abdomen occurring experienced during your period, without contributing other diseases). To explore the effect of the pressure points SP6 and SP8 on managing cramping pain, the research team utilized a crossover clinical trial design. The sample was 42 females aged 18–30 years old who met the study criteria. Pain scores and symptoms were measured immediately after acupressure, 30 minutes after acupressure, 1 hour after acupressure, and 2 hours later. The reductions in pain severity were significant for all intervals and at both SP6 and SP8 points (P < 0.001). Comparison of the acupressure applied at SP6 and SP8 points revealed that, for all intervals, acupressure at the SP8 point reduced pain severity significantly more than the SP6 point (P < 0.001).
This study reveals promising results for acupressure in the management of dysmenorrhea symptoms for female patients. It demonstrates the efficacy of acupressure in order to improve cramping and other associated symptoms. This research is also useful in its direct comparison of SP8 and SP6. Many other studies focused on acupressure management in dysmenorrhea only tested with SP6. The fact that SP8 could be more effective sparks interest for future research. Many women suffer from pain during their cycle and often turn to medications like NSAIDS, midol, and tylenol to manage symptoms. Not only is acupressure free, but it reduces side effects of long-term medication use. This study also demonstrates that acupressure can be taught and easily implemented. This can be used as a non-invasive modality in managing menstrual pain and symptoms.
REFERENCE: Gharloghi, S., Torkzahrani, S., Akbarzadeh, A. R., & Heshmat, R. (2012). The effects of acupressure on severity of primary dysmenorrhea. Patient preference and adherence, 6, 137.
Don’t Rock the Bloat
Bloating and constipation are personally my least favorite part of the ol’ period. To feel puffy, heavy, and balloon-y for multiple days in a row doesn’t feel fabulous. Even though I can “logic” my way to being OK with the bloat (it’s caused by a change in progesterone and estrogen levels which cause the body to retain more water and salt.), it still is a little brutal on the old body image to feel like a pufferfish. SoooOOOooO that brings me to the next pressure point, CV6. This is also called the “Sea of Energy” point which I find particularly empowering and lovely. You can find this point two finger breadths beneath the naval. You kind of have to “dig” to find this one, but once you feel it-- you’ll know. It kind of feels like a little button? Maybe that’s just me? It’ll be mildly tender and you can press into it to help combat bloat-- and constipation! I know many women experience constipation during their menses (*raises hands*) which can further amplify the bloating factor. This point is a 2-for-1 in terms of fighting back against period bloat and that “backed up” feeling. Find CV6 whenever you are feeling a little puffy and watch.
RESEARCH ON CV6:
This study was focused on using an acupressure series to combat constipation in patients receiving hemodialysis. It was a randomized double- blind placebo- controlled clinical trial conducted in 2014. The study involved 70 patients who were randomly assigned to intervention or control group. Intervention group received acupressure in acupressure points three times a week for four weeks during hemodialysis. In control group, acupressure was delivered in false points (not in line with an energy meridian). The frequency of frequency of bowel movements was recorded in both groups before and after the study.
The acupressure sequence was the following points: LI4, LI3, ST36, SP15, and CV6. Each session lasted for only 9 minutes, but even with that short amount of time the results indicated a significant difference in bowel frequency between between intervention group and control group in frequency of defecation during the fourth week of intervention (p<0.001). There are arguably many factors that play into someone’s bowel habits, but the results of this study are very encouraging that acupressure points (including CV6!) help to manage constipation in a safe, free, and time-effective manner.
REFERENCE: Abbasi, P., Mojalli, M., Kianmehr, M., & Zamani, S. (2019). Effect of acupressure on constipation in patients undergoing hemodialysis: A randomized double-blind controlled clinical trial. Avicenna journal of phytomedicine, 9(1), 84.
to wrap it up….
Gang, there is a whoooole world of natural period remedies waiting for ya. Do you guys want me to keep talkin’ about our cycles? I feel like this blog post has just bareeeeely scratched the surface at all I could rant about with our periods, but i thought acupressure would be a fun place to start! Anything in particular you are wanting to know? In the mean time, here are my period must-haves: books, menstrual cups, you name it— these are the things i cannot live without.
the natural girl’s period survival kit:
ORGANICUP MENSTRUAL CUP: menstrual cups freaked me out.….thennnnnn i tried one. LIFE. CHANGING. they are worth alllll the hype and then some. this particular one is medical-grade silicone material derived from sand (quartz) and contains no unnecessary chemicals, toxins or artificial coloring. (bonus! they partner with Womena, Freedom4Girls, and WiseEconomy to empower women and girls with their period!)
HORMONAL BY MARTIE HASELTON: This book dives into women’s hormones through a “real world” lens as to to why we do the things we do. Example: how our cycle dictates who we are attracted to (prepare to LOL), why men are more attracted to ovulating women (cue me citing research about my “ovulation scent” to Adam whenever he seems particularly fond of me), and everything in-between. I read this book in one weekend with a glass of wine, and it was PERFECT. Loved. It. (Find it here: book / kindle / audio )
ORGANIC TAMPONS: my go-to before i got into the menstrual cup stage. but i do still keep these on hand just in case i am ever without my menstrual cup (gym bag, purse, etc.). Friends— with anything that i’m putting up there you better believe i don’t want it full of chemicals and pesticides. remember when i said your skin absorbs just about everything? that goes for the chemmies on your tampon. how freaky is that? i definitely don’t want my future fertility at the risk of absorbing any yuckies. long story short: organic tampons— it matters.
PERIOD REPAIR MANUAL : my women’s health bible. seriously. As someone who loves learning about women’s cycles, I found the information scientifically accurate *and* crazy motivating to learn my cycle better and take care of my woman cycle through a natural, integrative lens. This book will help ya manage your periods using natural, integrative health modalities like diet, supplements, herbs, and bioidentical hormones. Topics include…. *drum roll please*, how to come off hormonal birth control, what your period should be like, what can go wrong, how to talk to your doctor, and some various recommendations for common period problems, including PCOS and endometriosis. Full disclosure: this book is not as “fun” as the others, but it is worth its weight in gold. Like I said, I truly consider it my women’s health bible. Basically-- if you have a period, you should read this book. (Yes, you) . (LINKS: book / kindle / audio )
PMS EASE OIL BLEND: this. blend. rub it alllll over my lower abdomen and pelvis region when i’m crampy and it creates the most beautiful (natural!) relief. disclosure: i linked to amazon for this oil, but i’ve always sourced it directly from my fav essential oil site. just wanted to do a PSA that amazon may be easier for ya, but i always, always, always recommend buying essential oils from the source to ensure quality!
ACUPRESSURE POINTS TEXTBOOK: the book that started it all. I needed to buy this textbook for my acupressure class and holy moly i have never found so much value in a “required reading” text. This book outlines acupressure for alllllllll sorts of common ailments: constipation, headaches, backaches, mental fog, cravings, etc., etc. It is like your own little acupressure first aid book! if this post about acupressure intrigued you, i could not recommend this book any more!
Alright, that’s officially a wrap! What are we thinking? Are natural period remedies helpful for you cuties? I never know what you guys like until you tell me sooooo get chattin’ in that comment section below. (I love feedback!)