Massages That Can Help Relieve Menstrual Pain

That time of the month brings with it all sorts of unfortunate symptoms, ranging from mood swings and hormonal acne to abdominal bloating and menstrual cramps. With 80% of women reporting period cramps at some point in their lifetime, it's likely that any of us who menstruate have also experienced this pain (per Women's Health Concern).

If you've forgotten this health lesson, menstrual cramps, known as dysmenorrhea, are caused by contractions in the uterus as the uterine lining is shed (per Mayo Clinic). While the severity of this pain can vary, with some menstruators finding their everyday lives disrupted by the sensation, it's never a particularly pleasant experience.

There is no surefire way to prevent them, but many methods have been developed to treat the symptom. Taking over-the-counter medicine for cramps, like acetaminophen or ibuprofen, is a pretty common solution. Drinking herbal teas or taking hot baths are also common remedies.

Massage therapy is a less-practiced but scientifically supported treatment, with studies from Isfahan University of Medical Sciences and Miami University resulting in positive findings. If you're interested in using massages to treat your menstrual pain, you have many techniques to choose from.

Self-massage techniques for period cramps

While most massages are administered by others, you don't necessarily need a second pair of hands to treat your menstrual cramps. Rachel Richards Massage demonstrates several self-massage techniques in her YouTube video, beginning with some measured breathing and soft abdominal pressure to reduce tightness.

She then moves on to the sun and moon technique, which is also mentioned by Massage Fitness Magazine as an effective way to treat menstrual pain. For this motion, one palm makes a circular shape across the abdomen while the other palm moves in the opposite direction, lifting over the first hand to trace the outer curve of a crescent. 

Another self-massage strategy shown by Richards is the four-fingered circular motion. For this technique, take four fingers on both of your hands and apply pointed pressure in the shape of a small circle. Continue this movement in the shape of a larger spiral that centers around your navel. In this way, you should make the small circular movement all across your abdomen until you reach your belly button. 

Besides these, you can also target acupressure points linked to menstrual pain. In a YouTube video from the channel Holden QiGong, Lee Holden suggests targeting the spleen meridian, which can be found by setting one foot on the opposite knee and feeling along the underside of the shin bone. Here, you can use both thumbs to apply pressure up and down the channel beside this bone, targeting any tender spots with more pointed pressure.

Compression massages can treat menstrual pain

This next technique for relieving period cramps is designed to be administered by a second person, but there is a workaround if you want to do this one solo.

Either way, the method is known as a compression massage and targets the sacrum bone in the lower back (per Massage Joy). You can find this bone by tracing the spine until you reach the area above the tailbone and between the buttocks (per Carmesi).

Once the sacrum is identified, the massagist should interlock their fingers and apply pressure with the heels, squeezing either side of the bone. Hold the pressure for 15-30 seconds, releasing it afterward but still pressing the palms downwards. This motion should be repeated but can be integrated with other basic massage techniques, as seen in the TikTok from @givemassageathome.

If you don't have another person to give you this massage, you can use a compression device, such as the gluteus massager mentioned by Massage Joy. For any of these methods, feel free to integrate elements such as period-targeting essential oils and heating pads to produce the best results for you.