Dr. Gray's Straight Talk

Honest and blunt healthcare discussion and advice.

Spinal Manipulation Found Effective in Decreasing Menstrual Pain

Posted by Dr. Gray on Friday, July 25, 2008

Each year, an estimated fifty percent of all women are affected by primary dysmenorrhea, or the presence of painful menstruation not attributed to an organic pelvic pathology.1 100 million work hours are lost because of primary dysmenorrhea per year.2 This translates into a loss of more than $1 billion3 annually for employers.

Standard medical treatment relieves symptoms in 80 percent of all cases, but side effects can lead to more debilitating complaints that range from dizziness and stomach distress to abdominal bleeding and stomach ulcers.

Primary dysmenorrhea is believed to be caused by prostaglandins, a group of naturally occurring fatty acids found in various tissues that induce muscle contractions. Abnormally high levels of prostaglandin found in dysmenorrheic women during the first 48 hours of their menstrual cycle are thought to cause uterine contractions that result in pain. For this reason, both perceived pain and blood levels of prostaglandins were tested in this study.

While more testing is called for, this trial found that women who received chiropractic treatment, consisting of spinal manipulation, reported significant reductions in back pain and menstrual distress. A measurable reduction in the substance believed to be responsible for menstrual pain was also noted.

On the first day of their period, the 38 women participating in the trial received either spinal manipulation or a “sham” adjustment that did not have a therapeutic effect on the spine. The women were asked to fill out a menstrual distress questionnaire and rate their pain on a visual analogue scale, and blood was drawn and tested both 15 minutes before treatment and 60 minutes after treatment.

The results of the questionnaires showed the greatest reduction in perceived pain among the women receiving spinal manipulation when compared to the women who received sham adjustments. Visual analogue scale scores indicated that both abdominal and back pain decreased almost twice as much in the spine manipulated group compared to the sham group. A reduction in blood levels of prostaglandins was noted in both groups that will require further investigation.

The results of this study on dysmenorrhea were presented at the 75th annual meeting of the prestigious Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology and Medicine, and a proposal has been submitted to the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development to obtain funding for a more comprehensive study.

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