Osteopathy and Period Pain

Experiencing pain just prior to or during your period is often considered normal, unavoidable and ‘just one of those things’.  Osteopaths take a different view, and may be able to help.

Dysmenorrhoea can be described as severe period pelvic pain that interferes with normal daily activities. It causes stress and pain as well as nausea, vomiting, dizziness, diarrhoea and headaches.

Primary dysmenorrhoea refers to painful periods in the absence of underlying pathology, while secondary dysmenorrhoea is pain associated with pelvic pathology such as endometriosis.

A study of 1000 girls aged 16 to 18 years in Canberra found that 21% of the girls had severe pain with periods and 26% had missed school because of menstrual pain and it is estimated that 50% of all women experience pain during their period.

Osteopaths have long worked with women to restore health to the body and ease these symptoms.  German Osteopaths recently undertook a study (1) to investigate the effectiveness of Osteopathic treatments in patients with pain due to primary dysmenorrhoea. The intervention group received Osteopathic treatment twice per cycle for three cycles (total 6 treatments). The control group received no intervention.

The subjects who received Osteopathic treatment had a reduction in severity of pain from 4.6/10 down to 1.9/10.  They also had a reduction in the total number of days of pain from 4.5 days to only 2.2 per cycle. There was also a significant improvement in Health Related Quality of Life (SF-36). The control group showed no significant changes over this time.

This study matches my experience working with women who report pain during their cycle.   Clinically I find that women who experience period pain show a combination of:

  • restriction through the joints of the pelvis and lower back, and pelvic floor
  • asymetrical tension in the pelvic organs (uterus, ovaries, bladder etc) and their associated ligaments,
  • Congestion and altered blood flow in and out of the pelvis
  • Altered breathing patterns
  • Hypersensitivity of the sacral and lumbar nerves

I find that by addressing these issues, as well as managing any associated hormonal imbalances and emotional stressors, many women will find relief from these monthly pains. Osteopaths also help to prepare exercise and stretching programs and advice on posture that can be related to the cause of period pain.

1 Schwerla F, Wirthwein P, Rütz M, Resch KL. Osteopathic treatment in patients with primary dysmenorrhea: a randomized controlled trial. Int J Osteopath Med.2014;17:222-231. doi:10.1016/j.ijosm.2014.04.003.  

Dr. Drew Carr
Dr Carr is no longer working at Kundalini House. If you are seeking a Osteopath to focus on period pain please see our current Osteopaths for support.