Heat therapy for primary dysmenorrhea: A systematic review and meta-analysis of its effects on pain relief and quality of life

Sci Rep. 2018 Nov 2;8(1):16252. doi: 10.1038/s41598-018-34303-z.


Primary dysmenorrhea, which is menstrual pain without pelvic pathology, is the most common gynecologic condition in women. Heat therapy has been used as a treatment. We assessed the evidence on heat therapy as a treatment for primary dysmenorrhea. We searched 11 databases for studies published through July 2018. All randomized controlled trials (RCTs) that addressed heat therapy for patients with primary dysmenorrhea were included. Data extraction and risk-of-bias assessments were performed by two independent reviewers. Risk of bias was assessed using the Cochrane risk-of-bias tool. Six RCTs met our inclusion criteria. Two RCTs found favorable effects of heat therapy on menstrual pain compared with unheated placebo therapy. Three RCTs found favorable effects of heating pads on menstrual pain compared with analgesic medication (n = 274; SMD -0.72; 95% confidence interval -0.97 to -0.48; P < 0.001; two studies). One RCT showed beneficial effects of heat therapy on menstrual pain compared with no treatment (n = 132; MD -4.04 VAS; 95% CI -4.88 to -3.20; P < 0.001). However, these results are based on relatively few trials with small sample sizes. Our review provided suggestive evidence of the effectiveness of heat therapy for primary dysmenorrhea, but rigorous high-quality trials are still needed to provide robust evidence.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Dysmenorrhea / etiology
  • Dysmenorrhea / psychology
  • Dysmenorrhea / therapy*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hyperthermia, Induced / methods*
  • Pain Management / methods*
  • Quality of Life*
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Treatment Outcome