Are you suffering with menstrual pain? Relief may literally be at your fingertips. No meds needed.

In a pilot study, women who also used acupressure—pressing their fingers on their skin at certain points—to ease menstrual pain experienced more relief than women using only their usual care methods of pain medicine and oral contraceptives.

Participants followed instructions from an acupressure app called Luna.-Selfcare. The app told them how to press on three key acupressure points: SP6 on the inside of the leg just above the ankle bone, LI4 is at the highest spot of the muscle of your hand when your thumb and index finger are brought close together, and LR3 is where the skin of your big toe and the second toe joint.

Women using the app applied pressure to each site on both sides of the body for one minute each at the same time every day beginning five days before they expected their periods to begin and continuing until their periods ended. The app included reminders, a diary and feedback questionnaires, and the study lasted for six menstrual cycles. Another group of women in the study, the control group, had no acupressure and continued to follow their typical care plan, such as taking pain medication.

The results: 37% of the women who did self-acupressure reported that the intensity of their pain during their periods had decreased by half or more after three months. After six months, 58% of the women found that level of relief. In contrast, only 25% of the women in the non-acupressure group reported a similar reduction in pain intensity at either three or six months.

A few women in the self-acupressure group had a negative reaction to the treatment, such as greater pain or bruising. But the number of instances declined over the first three months of the study.

The app, developed in Germany for the study, was not yet available in the US as we were writing this, but the good news is, you don’t need an app to practice self-acupressure and get similar benefits. Claudia M. Witt, MD, the lead author of the study, said that while features of the app are helpful, acupressure could also be applied without an app if you can commit to making the change in behavior required—often the most “difficult” part of any self-care initiative.

Applying acupressure without the app: Schedule a session with an experienced acupressure professional in your area to show you exactly where the SP6, LI4 and LR3 points are located and how to properly apply pressure to them. And then follow the system used in the study and described above (once a day at the same time each day starting five days before your anticipated period and continuing until it ends). Also, be patient, as the study results showed that the effect of acupressure increased over time.

Caution: If your menstrual pain tends to be very severe, talk to your doctor because that level of pain could be a symptom of a serious condition such as endometriosis or adenomyosis, said Dr. Witt.

Resource: You can find an acupressure therapist by searching the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork.