In the Journal of Adolescent and Pediatric Gynecology, Rakhshaee reports on the evaluation of 3 yoga poses used to treat primary dysmenorrhea. Primary dysmenorrhea occurs in otherwise healthy young women around the time that the menstrual cycle begins. It has been reported by Proctor in 2007 that as many as 75% of adolescents have painful periods, and that up to 20% of them limit activities because of the pain. An article by Wilson and Keye report that premenstrual syndrome and dysmenorrhea are reported as a leading cause of missed school and as problems that affected academic performance.
In the study by Rakhshaee, 92 female students (ages 18-22) were randomly assigned to a treatment group (n=50) and to a control group (n=42). Over a period of 3 menstrual cycles, participants recorded pain using a Visual Analog Scale and reported pain duration in terms of hours. During the first menstrual cycle, symptoms were recorded, and then during the second and third cycles, the treatment group was asked to complete 3 yoga poses during the luteal phase. The control group received no intervention. Yoga poses instructed include the Cat, Fish, and Cobra. You can search the Yoga Journal website to view each of the poses by clicking here if you are interested.
In the experimental group, both the pain intensity and the pain duration showed significant differences with the participants who completed yoga poses having less pain intensity and pain duration. The authors conclude that yoga is a safe and simple treatment for primary dysmenorrhea. Oftentimes, patients who complain of dysmenorrhea lack access to care for this other than medications that might include pain medication or birth control pills. Instructing a patient in basic yoga postures presented in this research may be a simple alternative to such medications. There are several websites that offer free access not only to images of poses, but also to free classes. I often hear from patients that they enjoy taking advantage of free fitness classes including yoga on various television stations. This may be another "tool in the toolbox" that we can offer to patients who have pain related to the menstrual cycle.