Recently in the Pelvic Rehab Report blog we discussed the beneficial role of pelvic rehabilitation for symptoms of dysmenorrhea. Additional research was published this year that supports the use of pranayama for improving quality of life and pain in girls with primary dysmenorrhea. Breathing within yoga studies is a rich field, with well-defined variations in stages and kinds of breathing, techniques and postures, and use of different hand positions and breathing through the nostrils and/or mouth. The Oxford online dictionary defines pranayama as a practice coming from Hindu yoga and related to regulating the breath through specific techniques.
In the study, the practice of both slow pranayama (Nadi Shodhan) and fast pranayama (Kapalbhati) was instructed to the women to be completed in the mornings on an empty stomach for 10 minutes per day. Ninety unmarried young women (ages 18-25) diagnosed with primary dysmenorrhea were randomly and equally assigned to either Group A (slow pranayama) or Group B (fast pranayama). Outcomes included the Moos menstrual distress questionnaire (MMDQ), numerical pain rating pain scale, a quality of life scale "by American chronic pain association" and the assessments were administered at baseline, after the first menstrual cycle, and after the second menstrual cycle. To read more details about the methods and results, the full article can be accessed here.
Prior and recent research has also studied the effects of similar breathing techniques on cognitive functions in healthy adults and also on perceived stress and cardiovascular parameters in young healthcare students. While it may not be new to compare fast and slow pranayama techniques with health conditions, this is the first study to address pranayama's effects on symptoms of dysmenorrhea. The authors conclude that practicing slow pranayama compared to fast pranayama improved quality of life and pain scores related to dysmenorrhea. Furthermore, the authors suggest that because pranayama can decrease absenteeism and stress levels, the practice should be implemented in college students to improve quality of life.