Cramping and pain are common problems for many women during their menstrual period. Sharp pains in the lower abdomen begin at the start of menstruation and may continue for 3 to 4 days. The pain can range from mild to severe and often interferes with many normal activities. While the majority of women who have menstrual periods have some discomfort, 10% or more are temporarily disabled by the discomfort.
Many different treatment strategies have been tried for menstrual pain but the most commonly used are non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. (NSAIDS) Despite drug therapy, universal relief is not obtained and some patients experience gastric upset and other minor problems with NSAID use. The search for a cost effective, non-drug, anti-inflammatory approach to menstrual pain continues.
ActiPatch is a topically applied battery-operated device that elicits pulsed electromagnetic fields that has proven to be capable of modulating inflammation and edema in local tissues. It is easily applied and removed and is inexpensive. I have used it in my plastic surgery and spa practices over the past two years and have found it effective for postoperative relief of pain and swelling after breast augmentation, liposuction, and certain types of facial surgeries. I have also personally used it as well as family members for a variety of musculoskeletal and joint pain issues and have found it helpful. I recommend it to all of my patients for a variety of inflammatory and pain issues. This experience prompted me to wonder if this technology would be effective for the common female problem of menstrual pain. Having a medical and spa practice that is predominantly women, I had a fertile environment to test its potential benefits.
Beginning in August 2008, I solicited and identified twenty-three (23) female patients (ages 19 to 37) with problematic menstrual issues that were willing to test the patches. They were provided with a questionnaire that allowed them to rate their menstrual pain on a 1 – 10 scale as well as a daily rating of their pain using this scale beginning on their first day of menstruation up to five days after. To serve as their own controls, they initially used these ratings on a regular menstrual cycle without ActiPatch treatment. Once their control data was obtained, they were provided with an ActiPatch to use which measured 6 x 10 cms. They were instructed where and how to apply it and to use it continuously for 5 days when the onset of their menstrual period was evident. They rated their pain over this time period using the same 1 – 10 pain scale as they used during their control period. The patients were asked not to take any oral medications during the study period.
The patient results obtained indicated that during the control period, the average composite pain rating was 7.8. (highest 10, lowest 4) From day one to five, the average composite daily pain ratings were 8.3, 7.9, 7.4, 6.5, and 5.7, respectively. During the ActiPatch treatment sessions, the average composite pain ratings was 5.4 (highest 8, lowest 2) for the same set of patients. Their average composite daily pain ratings were 5.7, 4.8, 4.3, 3.4, and 2.1 for days one through five. The correlates to an overall pain reduction of 30% and on a daily basis of 31%, 39%, 42%, 48%, and 73% respectively. This indicates as the days of menstruation went on, the amount of pain reduction continued to improve either from cumulative effects from ActiPatch therapy, a reduction in actual menstrual pain as flow decreases, or a combination of both.
This initial pilot study provides evidence that ActiPatch does appear to contribute to pain relief from menstruation. The size of the patch is able to produce a field that can penetrate deep enough into the tissues to create a positive effect. The data reported here represent overall trends and further intrapatient statistical analysis needs to be done to determine individual improvement.
These menstrual findings are not surprising to me as they are consistent with what I have observed in recovery after numerous plastic surgery procedures. ActiPatch, now known as ALLAY for application for menstrual pain, appears to have a useful role for women who suffer from painful periods. Its ease of use, low cost, and ability to be combined with helpful aids, such as NSAID medications and heating pads make it an ideal therapeutic option for many women.
Dr. Barry Eppley