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Statistically, around 80% of women experience period pain, also known as dysmenorrhoea. These are dull, cramping pains on the lower abdomen that women experience before or during their monthly menstrual cycle. Of the 80%, one in four experience painful period cramps, requiring medication or absence from work. This article presents a number of menstrual cramp treatments that may solve this problem.
Period cramps can vary in intensity depending on different factors. Sometimes, the pain can easily be relieved at home with simple traditional remedies. However, other symptoms may point to a more serious issue.
Health experts classify dysmenorrhoea into two categories, primary and secondary dysmenorrhea. Primary dysmenorrhea refers to menstrual cramping that frequently comes before or during monthly periods. Secondary dysmenorrhoea is caused by underlying medical conditions in the reproductive organs, such as health problems in the lining of the uterus, endometriosis, and pelvic inflammatory disease.
Why do you get Cramps on your Period?
Menstruation occurs when the uterine wall contracts to help shed off the lining. To assist in muscle contractions, the body produces a hormone called prostaglandin. Prostaglandin is responsible for uterine contractions.
However, if produced at high levels, the pain-causing prostaglandins cause inflammation and period cramps. The amount of prostaglandin released determines the intensity of the muscle contractions.
Consequently, the higher the hormone levels present, the higher the pain level of the menstrual cramps.
Other causes of period cramps include uterine tissue diseases such as adenomyosis and uterine fibroids.
Period Pains and PMS
PMS stands for Premenstrual Syndrome Symptoms. Health experts refer to PMS as the symptoms between ovulation and the period, about 5 to 11 days before your period starts.
PMS can manifest in different ways, but the main symptoms are mood swings, food cravings, feeling on edge, depression, and tender breasts.
Menstrual cramps and PMS are not the same things. PMS symptoms occur a week or two before the period and generally stop once the cycle begins. The symptoms are also usually confused for early pregnancy signs.
On the other hand, menstrual cramps happen shortly before the cycle or during the period. They may intensify on the first day of the period and then subside from the second day onwards.
Symptoms of Menstrual Pain
Different women experience different menstrual pain symptoms. Many various factors determine the intensity of pain and severity of symptoms. Generally, pain during menstruation has the following symptoms;
- Dull, cramping pain in the lower abdomen.
- The pain occurs about a day or two before your period starts.
- Shooting pain in the hips and lower back.
- Loose bowels or diarrhea.
- Vomiting, headaches, or nausea.
Home Remedies for Painful Menstrual Cramps
Most women relieve period cramps at home using alternative medicine and don’t need to visit the hospital every month. Here are some of the most trusted home cures for painful periods;
1. Use a Hot Water Bottle
Lower abdominal cramps can make sitting, lying, and even standing uncomfortable. Gentle application of heat works well to relieve pain. Use a hot water bottle, a heat patch, or a heating pad for pain relief. Massage therapy with a warmly wrapped item can also help to reduce pain. You can take a warm bath as an alternative to applying direct heat.
2. Get Some Exercise
Exercise releases endorphins that help ease the pain of period cramping. You can try gentle exercising or an intense workout session, depending on the intensity of the period symptoms.
3. Birth Control Pills
Some hormonal birth control options can help to prevent severe pain during periods. Women who want to reduce the severity of menstrual periods can choose to use birth control containing only progestin or a combination of progestin and estrogen.
4. Try Some Tumeric
Tumeric can be taken in food and tea as a pain reliever for period pain. The herb contains a component called curcumin, which is an effective relief for period cramps. Curcumin attenuates severity of menstrual cramps by stimulating the body’s natural painkillers. It also reduces inflammation.
5. Take OTC Drugs for Menstrual Cramps Treatment
Over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs, can be used for period pain relief. NSAIDs act as anti-inflammatory agents to treat menstrual cramps. Ibuprofen, ketoprofen, and naproxen are some of the available NSAIDs you can buy without a prescription. You can consult licensed pharmacists to ensure you take the correct medicine depending on any allergens you may have.
6. Stock Up on Herbal Teas
There isn’t enough scientific evidence to prove that herbal teas help with painful cramps. However, anecdotal evidence shows that the component in the teas helps menstruating women manage period cramping pain. Some of the most recommended ones are;
- Raspberry leaf tea.
Raspberry tea is extracted from the leaves of the raspberry plant. Raspberry tea contains fragarine, a component that assists in toning the pelvic muscles. This alkaloid helps to reduce menstrual cramps by relaxing the uterine muscles.
- Cramp bark.
Cramp bark is an anti-inflammatory remedy and has excellent reviews for alleviating period cramps in many women. The herb has been used for centuries to treat different ailments in women, including cancer and inflammation of the uterus.
When to Get Medical Help to Relieve Menstrual Cramps
Most women are able to ease menstrual pain at home using simple remedies or over-the-counter drugs. For some, however, nothing seems to work, and severe cramps become a monthly ordeal. You should seek medical attention if you have other period symptoms that seem out of the norm or if your menstrual cramp pain causes any of the following;
- It stops you from performing your daily routines such as work or school.
- You experience cramps even when not on your periods.
- None of the home remedies, herbal medicine, or pain relievers help ease period pain.
- Increased menstrual symptoms and pain intensity as compared to previous months.
- Heavy menstrual bleeding or unpredictable menstrual cycles compared to your normal blood flow.
Is Your Period Pain Normal?
Painful periods can be challenging, especially when they interfere with your daily life. However, severe period pain is not normal, and you don’t have to dread every menstrual cycle. It is hard, though, to tell what normal period pain is on your own.
The only way to find out if you may have other underlying issues based on your period pain is to visit the hospital and consult a health practitioner. Some of the tests to expect are a pelvic exam to check for uterine fibroids, a blood test, a pap smear, or an ultrasound.