twohandsWhen you’ve got debilitating menstrual cramps, you’d probably try anything to ease the pain, right? Like pills, potions or some weird poultice concoction your grandmother swore by.

But, what if all you needed to decrease menstrual cramp pain was a little fragrant massage oil and your own two hands giving yourself a gentle pelvic massage?

Well, a new study in the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology proves that’s all it takes.

In the study, 75 women with painful periods were divided into three groups:

> 25 women who performed a pelvic self-massage with rose-scented massage oil on the first day of menstruation for two cycles.

> 25 women who performed a pelvic self-massage with unscented massage oil on the first day of menstruation for two cycles.

> 25 women who performed a pelvic self-massage without massage oil on the first day of menstruation for two cycles.

During the first cycle that the women tried these interventions, there was only a small reduction in menstrual cramp pain.

However, when the women tried the interventions again during their next cycle, those who used self-massage with rose oil experienced significantly less cramp discomfort  than the self-massagers who used a non-scented massage oil and those who performed self-massage without a massage oil.

While it may seem like something as simple as self-massage and fragrant oil couldn’t possibly be enough to exert any kind of effect on stabby, achy menstrual cramps, there are numerous other studies from around the globe that have found similar results when coupling self-massage and fragrant massage oil, including this one, this one, this one and this one.

So, what makes self-massage and fragrant massage oils so effective at quelling menstrual cramp pain?

Researchers theorize it’s likely a combination of effects working together: The aroma from essential oils triggers soothing calm in the brain, which reduces stress–a key factor in sensitivity to menstrual cramp pain; as the essential oils in the massage oil get absorbed into the skin, they reduce inflammation, increase circulation and reduce spasms causing the pain; and the gentle pelvic massage also increases circulation, reduces spasms and eases stress, further reducing discomfort.

These studies used a variety of essential oils in their massage oils, including rose, lavender, cinnamon and clove. So, it seems as though you can choose your favorite scents from among these. I’m a lavender girl myself.

Tip: Never use essential oils that haven’t been diluted in a carrier oil, such as almond or jojoba oil. Here’s one mixture from a study you can try: Mix 1.5 drops of cinnamon, 1.5 drops of clove, 1 drop of rose and 1 drop of lavender into 95 drops of sweet almond oil.

The amount of massage and when the massage was done varied from study to study, but doing it prior to menstruation in your premenstrual week and during your period seems to have a similar effect. And doing it anywhere from 5 to 30 minutes also had beneficial effects. So, experiment with what works for you.

And, remember, if it doesn’t work the first time you try it, do it again during your next period. While women in previous studies saw immediate results, it took two cycles for the women in the latest study to see the difference. So, patience pays off.

Hope this helps you the next time your period comes ’round!

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