Complementary & alternative therapies
There are many alternative approaches that aim to improve the experience of menstruation. Some are supported by good evidence while others may simply improve women's sense of wellbeing.
Research suggests some physical therapies such as local heat application (heat packs), TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation), acupuncture and acupressure are helpful for reducing menstrual pain and cramps. Physiotherapy may also be helpful for lower back pain associated with PMS.
Yoga and mindfulness meditation
If you are stressed, you are more likely to suffer severe symptoms of PMS and experience poorer quality of life. Regular relaxation may be helpful in reducing severe PMS. Yoga has been used for thousands of years as a wholistic approach to health and wellbing. Some women may find yoga helpful in easing menstrual pain.
A small study found that weekly massages over five weeks improved the level of pain and mood disorders and reduced fluid retention experienced by women during their menstrual cycle.
Some herbal remedies may have benefits for women with PMS. It's very important to check with your doctor that it is safe to use herbal remedies and treatments, particularly if you are taking other medication.
Listed below are the best-researched herbs for the treatment of PMS, and the possible risks associated with taking them.
Chaste tree or Chasteberry (Vitex agnus-castus) (VAC)
- Relieves PMS symptoms: irritability, mood alteration, anger, headache, breast fullness and discomfort, abdominal bloating.
- May help regulate menstrual cycle; PCOS.
- Dose: 20 mg VAC extract, one capsule daily
- Generally safe but may cause gut disturbance and rash.
- Avoid in pregnancy.
St John’s wort (Hypericum perforatum)
- Relieves depression, mood disorders, premenstrual disturbed mood.
- Dose: 300 mg two to three times daily.
- Avoid taking with oral contraception, anticonvulsants and other antidepressants.
- Check with your doctor if St John's wort interacts with your medication.
- Avoid in pregnancy.
- May cause dry mouth, gastrointestinal discomfort, skin rash.
Evening primrose oil (Oenothera biennis)
- May help reduce breast discomfort.
- Avoid if you suffer seizures or epilepsy.
Red clover (Trifolium pretense)
- May relieve premenstrual breast pain.
- Dose: 40–80 mg daily.
- Avoid if taking blood thinners or if you have suffered oestrogen-sensitive tumours such as breast cancer.
Traditional Chinese medicine
- May help with PMS, hormonal disturbance.
- Must be prescribed by a trained Chinese herbalist.
- Check with a Chinese health practitioner about contra-indications and side effects.
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