womanhappyWhen you think of ways to reduce the ache of menstrual cramps, you likely don’t think of your ears. However, a recent study shows that “auricular acupressure”–a Chinese tradition that involves pressing specific points of the ear to prompt changes in other parts of the body by stimulating certain nerves–can play a key role in easing period pain.

Reporting in the journal Evidence-Based Alternative and Complimentary Medicine, researchers attached tiny seeds to six ear acupoints that affect menstrual cramps (see the list below) of 100 female high school seniors for 48 hours starting from the onset of their period. Each was instructed to press each seed for at least one minute four times per day. By the end of the study, most experienced “significant” pain relief as a result of pressing the seeds.

Because there was no “control” group–those who are given sham acupressure treatments–it’s not possible to prove in this study that pressing these acupoints prompted the pain relief or it was due to the placebo effect. However, these results do back up another, smaller study that used a control group and found that auricular acupressure was, indeed, effective in easing menstrual cramps.

Want to try auricular acupressure to tame your own menstrual cramps? Below are the six acupoints used in the study along with how they work. You can see where these acupoints are located on the ear in this diagram.

To get an expert to help you, track down an auricular acupressure practitioner here or by doing an Internet search for one in your area. Or try it yourself at home by using “ear dot magnets”, which are tiny metal pellets that stick to your ear with adhesive tape that work like the acupressure seeds used in the study. Find them at Amazon.com for $7.95 per 100.

Shenmen
Location: Outer point of the triangular-shaped indentation in the top half of your ear.
Purpose: Alleviates pain and triggers sedation

Kidney
Location: Top portion of your inner curve of your ear (which looks like a “C”) in the corner right before the ridge curves down.
Purpose: Normalizes “qi” (energy flow) and blood and restores organ function.

Liver
Location: Spot where the protruding ridge right above the entrance to your ear canal connects to the rear wall leading to your ear canal.
Purpose: Normalizes qi and blood and restores organ function.

Internal genitals
Location: Top spot of the area connecting the ear to the face.
Purpose: Harmonizes and improves endocrine and uterine function.

Central rim (brain stem)
Location: At the rear of the inner curve of your ear, on the top of the ridge.
Purpose: Dredging the meridian and normalizing circulation.

Endocrine
Location: The deep indentation on the bottom of the flap where it connects to your face.
Purpose: Harmonizes and improves endocrine and uterine function.