Easing Menstrual Cramps: Expert ways on how to reduce period pain

Easing Menstrual Cramps: Expert ways on how to reduce period pain

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03 October 2023 . 5 min read

Menstrual Cramps - Know How to Reduce Period Pain

Introduction

Menstrual cramps or period pain, also called dysmenorrhoea, is a throbbing, cramping pain in the lower abdominal region. Pain levels during menstruation can differ among women and fluctuate from one cycle to another in the same person.

Women undergo menstruation for 2 to 5 days each month, commonly known as a period. During this time, they experience vaginal bleeding as a natural part of their menstrual cycle. While women experience different signs and symptoms before and during menses, menstrual cramps are very common. 

In this blog, let's understand why menstrual cramps occur and how to reduce period pain effectively.


What causes menstrual cramps?

Menstrual cramps or dysmenorrhea is of two types, having different causes:

Primary dysmenorrhea

This is the most common type of period pain. Primary dysmenorrhea can also occur due to the uterine muscle contractions that arise during this time. The womb's wall contracts more vigorously to enable the uterus to shed its innermost lining, sometimes compressing blood vessels. This temporarily cuts off the blood and oxygen supply to the uterus, releasing chemicals that trigger lower abdominal pain.

At the same time, the woman's body produces excessive prostaglandins (chemicals produced by the uterus). These prostaglandins cause the uterine muscles to tighten and relax, which is felt as cramping pain. When prostaglandins start building up, the uterine muscles contract more strongly. Period pain may vary throughout life –increasing or decreasing in intensity with age and childbirth.

Secondary dysmenorrhea

Secondary dysmenorrhea refers to menstrual pain caused by underlying conditions affecting the uterus or female reproductive organs, like endometriosis, uterine fibroids, and pelvic inflammatory disease. This type of period pain worsens over time and can begin even before the menstrual cycle starts.


What are the symptoms of menstrual cramps?

Menstrual cramps can manifest as:

● Sharp localised pain in the lower abdominal area 

● Dull, throbbing aches in the stomach, legs and lower back region

● Gripping pain that may be constant or persistent

The period pain is usually the strongest on the first one or two days of your period, and you may also notice some blood clots in the discharge.

A few other symptoms that appear along with menstrual cramps are:

● Headache or migraine

● Feeling sick or nauseous

● Vomiting

● Dizziness or fainting

● Digestive symptoms like constipation or diarrhoea

● Sore breasts

● Swollen abdomen

These symptoms, called premenstrual syndrome or PMS, may also appear one to two weeks before your period starts.


How to get relief from period pain?

Though the mechanism of menstruation is the same in all females, the degree of cramping and pain varies significantly. While some women go about their usual routine, others are forced to stay in bed due to crippling and painful menstrual cramps. If you are wondering "How to reduce menstrual pain instantly", it's essential to understand that there are no magic potions or quick fixes to achieve this.

However, the good news is that there are several ways of relieving period pain, most of which are effective in a few hours.

Medications

Different types of medications are used for period pain relief. Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen, paracetamol, mefenamic acid and naproxen are the most commonly used drugs to manage period pain and cramps. Besides relieving period pain, NSAIDs reduce the number of prostaglandins in the uterus, reducing contractions and their effects. 

You can take these medications before or after your period starts as required. Avoid taking NSAIDs if you have stomach ulcers, bleeding problems, liver disease, or are allergic to aspirin.

Regular exercises

This helps release natural chemicals called endorphins that relieve period pain.

Using a heat pack, a hot water bottle or getting a hot water bath

These help relax your muscles and alleviate pain.

Contraceptive pill

Your doctor may prescribe a contraceptive pill that reduces prostaglandin release and pain associated with period cramps.

A few other home remedies that may help relieve period pain are:

Eating a healthy, balanced diet: Avoid carbohydrate-rich foods during and before your period. Including foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants may help in period pain management. Eating a vegetable diet before your period may reduce the intensity of your menstrual cramps and pain.

Acupuncture
Considered an alternative treatment, acupuncture might reduce menstrual pain and other associated symptoms compared to no treatment or treatment with NSAIDs. However, the effects of acupuncture are usually short-term. 

Herbal remedies

Traditional medicinal practices recommend the use of herbs and spices like cinnamon, fennel, and ginger for the effective treatment of primary dysmenorrhoea. While cinnamon was found to shorten the duration period pain, more studies are required in this regard.


What to do when menstrual cramps are severe??

Period pain can be graded as mild, moderate or severe based on its severity:

Mild: You feel pain and cramps in the lower abdomen, but it does not prevent you from changing your routine.

Moderate: The pain prevents you from doing your normal activities and may sometimes wake you from sleep.

Severe: The pain is terrible and prevents you from doing everyday activities.

You must consult your doctor if you have severe menstrual cramps that are not relieved using any medications or home remedies mentioned above. In these cases, your doctor will perform a thorough evaluation using ultrasound, a per vaginal examination. or diagnostic laparoscopy. 

Other reasons why you must visit your doctor for severe cramps are:

● You are unable to walk normally.

● You have a fever.

● Your cramps are increasing in severity. 

● You feel very sick and are unable to eat or drink properly. 

If your severe period cramps are secondary to other conditions like endometriosis, fibroids or adenomyosis, your doctor will recommend an appropriate treatment plan that may involve surgery under general anaesthesia. Conditions like uterine fibroids and endometriosis must be treated as early as possible to avoid any further issues with fertility. 


Conclusion

Menstrual cramps, while often accompanied by pain and discomfort, can serve as a powerful reminder of the incredible strength and resilience of the female body. By embracing a holistic approach to our well-being, we can use self-care practices, seek support from healthcare professionals, and explore natural remedies that relieve discomfort and pain associated with menstrual cramps and period pain. Women must seek timely medical care for their period pain to enjoy a regular routine during their menses.