Dysmenorrhea medical therapy

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Dysmenorrhea Microchapters


Patient Information


Historical Perspective




Differentiating Dysmenorrhea from other Diseases

Epidemiology and Demographics

Risk Factors

Natural History, Complications and Prognosis


History and Symptoms

Physical Examination

Laboratory Findings


Other Imaging Findings

Other Diagnostic Studies


Medical Therapy


Primary Prevention

Secondary Prevention

Cost-Effectiveness of Therapy

Future or Investigational Therapies

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Case #1

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Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [1] Associate Editor(s)-in-Chief: Vishnu Vardhan Serla M.B.B.S. [2]


Primary Dysmenorrhea

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen and naproxen, are very effective in the treatment of primary dysmenorrhea (Andreoli et al. 2004). As earlier stated, their effectiveness comes from their ability to inhibit prostaglandin synthesis. However, many NSAIDs can cause gastrointestinal upset as a side effect. Patients who cannot take most common NSAIDs may be prescribed a cyclo-oxygenase-2 (COX2) inhibitor.

Oral contraceptives are second-line therapy unless a woman is also seeking contraception, then they would become first-line therapy. Oral contraceptives are 90% effective in improving primary dysmenorrhea and work by reducing menstrual blood volume and suppressing ovulation. It may take up to 3 months for the oral contraceptives to become effective. Norplant and Depo-provera are also effective since these methods often induce amenorrhea.

Alternative Treatments

For the 10% of patients who do not respond to NSAIDs and/or oral contraceptives, a wide range of alternative therapies have been proven effective, including transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS), acupuncture, omega-3 fatty acids, transdermal nitroglycerin, thiamine, and magnesium supplements.

Chiropractic care has been an effective treatment approach (Chapman-Smith, 2000). Treating subluxations in the spine may cause the nerves leaving the spine to be less aggravated and so decrease symptoms of dysmenorrhea, as well as other symptoms such as chronic stomach aches and headaches. However, the Cochrane Review of 2007-04-19 [1] states "Authors' conclusions: Overall there is no evidence to suggest that spinal manipulation is effective in the treatment of primary and secondary dysmenorrhea."

Accupuncture is used to try to treat dysmenorrhea and studies have shown that it "reduced the subjective perception of dysmenorrhea" (Jun 2004). However, the small number of studies leaves doubt about the effectiveness of acupuncture for gynaecological conditions (White 2003).

Secondary Dysmenorrhea

The most effective treatment of secondary dysmenorrhea is the identification and treatment of the underlying cause of the pain, although the relief provided by NSAIDs is often helpful.

The first line of treatment is medical (e.g., prostaglandin synthetase inhibitors, hormonal contraception, danazol, progestins). If possible, the underlying disorder or anatomic abnormality is corrected, thus relieving symptoms. Dilation of a narrow cervical os may give 3 to 6 months of relief (and allows diagnostic curettage if needed). Myomectomy, polypectomy, or dilation and curettage may be needed. Interruption of uterine nerves by presacral neurectomy and division of the sacrouterine ligaments may help selected patients. Hypnosis may be useful.

Endometriosis is a common cause of secondary dysmenorrhea. In fact, approximately 24% of women who complain of pelvic pain are subsequently found to have endometriosis. This condition is often associated with infertility. If pain relief is the goal, medical options include hormonal contraception, danazol, progestational agents, and GnRH agonists.


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