Reducing Pain from Period Cramps Starts with Knowing their Causes
We all wish we could find that one panacea that would stop period cramps forever. They can be painful, they can be debilitating and they are most definitely annoying. You’re not alone when it comes to period cramps: over 80% of women1 experience period pain, which in the medical vernacular is called dysmenorrhea.
Pain from cramping can be caused by a number of different conditions, and pain reduction treatments will vary depending on the cause2:
- The contraction of the womb, which enables the body to shed the uterine lining
- Decreased blood flow to the womb
- Buildup of pressure in the uterus from increased blood flow as a result of a narrow cervical opening (a.k.a. cervical stenosis)
- The uterine lining becomes implanted outside of the uterus, typically in the fallopian tubes (a.k.a. endometriosis)
- Noncancerous growths in the walls of the uterus (a.k.a. uterine fibroids)
- The uterine tissue lining begins to grow into the muscular walls of the uterus (a.k.a. adenomyosis)
- An infection of the female reproductive organs typically due to sexually transmitted bacteria (a.k.a. pelvic inflammatory disease
If you are concerned with the severity of the pain or think you may have one of the above conditions, we highly recommend visiting your doctor as soon as possible.
But, if you’re one of 80% of women that have period cramps for that one week every month unrelated to other conditions, then keep reading to find out how to alleviate some of that pain for happier period!
On a positive note, there are several nutritional options, home remedies and medications that can reduce discomfort and pain. However, they may not work for everyone and may not reduce cramping entirely. It may take some experimentation to figure out which of the following works best for you.
Many natural remedies have proven effective for some women at reducing pain associated with period cramps. Only try those that you feel comfortable with.
- Exercise. According to an article on WebMD3, exercise helps with the release of beta-endorphins (basically, naturally occurring, internally produced opioids), which act as pain relievers and are capable of burning prostaglandins much faster (chemicals produced during periods to cause muscle contractions).
- Heating Pads + Hot Baths. Heat promotes vasodilation (increase in the size of blood vessels), which then results in increased blood flow to the sore and tightened muscles (in this case, your uterus).
- Orgasms, self-induced or with a partner. If exercising isn’t really your thing or you just prefer the use of pleasure to release endorphins (like oxytocins and dopamine), then this may be the way to go for you. The release of endorphins increase blood flow and if enough quantities are released, they can have the same effect as an over-the-counter pain reliever.
- Acupuncture. Needles don’t go over well for some (totally understandable). Others, however, may want to consider acupuncture. Acupuncture has long been used as a treatment for chronic pain, so it only makes sense that it can help reduce the pain associated with period cramping.
While medications can surely reduce the discomfort from period cramping, it’s important to check with your doctor before taking any medicines, even over-the-counter ones.
- Over-the-counter pain relievers can help reduce inflammation and pain from cramps.
- Examples include: ibuprofen, naproxen, acetaminophen
- Hormonal birth control options such as the pill, the ring, patches, hormonal IUDs (intrauterine contraceptive device), and implants can help regulate your body’s naturally occurring hormonal fluctuations, which in turn can lessen (or for some eliminate) symptoms associated with premenstrual syndrome (PMS) including cramping.
If taking over-the-counter medicines still does not do the trick even after switching up your diet and trying some of the other home remedies, your doctor may be able to help you with other pain management treatments and solutions as well as rule out any other potential causes of your period pain.
Well, that depends on you! If you have a more serious condition that is causing your cramping, then these suggestions likely won’t make the cut (plus, you should really see your doctor if it’s more than just “normal” period cramping).
For those that want to take the edge off, it will likely require experimentation and some combination of the above. While patience is hard to have when you’ve got period cramps, over time you’ll be able to figure out which methods work best for you to reduce your pain.
Here’s to happier, pain-free periods!