As a menstruator, you are always aware of your cycle and the date when your next period starts. This is important so that you can be well-prepared with the right sanitary products and healthy food for the days when you are bleeding. As a menstruator, you might also be dreading your next period because of all the pre-menstrual symptoms that come with it and the pain and cramps during your periods. Period pains and period cramps occur due to various reasons and there are multiple remedies to relieve the same. In this article about period cramps, we will be looking at the symptoms, causes and remedies for menstrual cramps and pains. You can try these remedies at home and make your next period more comfortable with the right medicine, food and exercise for period cramps.
Periods are painful. Well, periods may or may not be painful but period pains going to such an extent that they prevent you from doing your everyday tasks is not normal. There are two types of painful periods- primary and secondary dysmenorrhea. Other than period pain, menstrual cramps are also a very common aspect of the menstrual cycle for many menstruators. Cramps can get extremely painful for some and force them to stay in bed all day. Taking OTC medicines for immediate pain relief is one of the ways of dealing with menstrual cramps and pains. There are also other methods to relieve menstrual cramps and pains which are more natural and safe for the long run. In this article, we will be looking at not only the remedies for period pains and cramps but also why period pains are so painful and what the common causes of period cramps are that result in intense pain and other symptoms like diarrhoea, dizziness, nausea, headaches and so on.
Why Are Period Cramps Painful?
This is a very common question not only among the adolescent menstruators who have just gotten their first period but also among menstruators who are well in their 20s and 30s. Periods are painful for most menstruators but many do not know why their periods hurt so much and why they are so painful. As mentioned above, menstrual cramps dysmenorrhea can be primary or secondary. Primary dysmenorrhea is caused due to naturally occurring prostaglandins in the body. This starts right after a menstruator gets their first period. Prostaglandins are hormone-like lipids that reside in and are released from the uterine lining. Prostaglandins force the contractions of the uterus to help it get rid of its lining and are involved in inflammation and pain responses. Higher levels of prostaglandins cause severe pain and cramping. Very high levels can cause nausea and diarrhoea. After the first few days of your periods, as the lining sheds, the release of this hormone is lowered which is why the pain and cramps subside after the first few days. Secondary dysmenorrhea occurs due to reproductive disorders at a later stage in life.
What Causes Period Cramps?
What causes period cramps? In this previous section of this article, we looked at the reason why your periods are so painful. Let us now understand the multiple causes of period cramps. If you are unable to identify what causes your cramps, you must consult a doctor to help you diagnose the cause of your cramps and helps you find the remedy for the same.
Pre-Menstrual Syndrome or PMS
PMS or pre-menstrual syndrome affects 90% of all menstruators. PMS begins a few days before the onset of your period and continues for a day or two more. Dipping levels of estrogen and progesterone are known as the cause of PMS. Fatigue, irritability, mood swings and cramps are some of the symptoms of PMS.
Pre-Menstrual Dysphoric Disorder or PMDD
PMDD or Pre-menstrual dysphoric disorder is a more severe form of PMS that affects around 5% of all menstruators. There are no specific causes of PMDD according to medical professionals but menstruators with higher stress levels, depression or a family history of depression are more prone to the same.
Benign growths that might develop in the uterine lining are known as uterine fibroids. These growths do not change the shape of the uterus and are usually formed in the child-bearing years. Fibroids are responsible for heavy flow and painful cramps for many menstruators.
A harmless sac of fluid that is formed in or on your body is called a cyst. Cysts that develop in the ovary usually during ovulation are known as ovarian cysts. Most menstruators develop a small cyst every month which eventually fades away. Some menstruators develop multiple or larger cysts which can be painful. There can also be a hormonal imbalance condition like polycystic ovarian syndrome or PCOS where multiple small cysts are developed in the ovary causing not only painful periods but also other complications.
Pelvic Inflammatory Diseases or PID
An infection in the ovaries and uterus can be termed pelvic inflammatory disease or PID. This infection is caused when bacteria transmitted by STIs or sexually transmitted infections make their way to the reproductive organs. A surgical procedure can also lead to a PID.
The endometrium or the uterine lining grows inside the uterus. If you have endometriosis, your endometrium grows outside the uterus in other reproductive organs. When the uterine tissue is shed by the body, the endometrium tissue growing outside gets trapped in the body which causes cramps and pains. This condition can be managed with medication.
In this condition, the endometrium grows into the uterus’s muscle wall and can affect the entire uterus or a specific spot. This is a treatable condition and menstruators who have had uterine surgery or children are at higher risks of developing the same.
How To Get Rid Of Period Cramps: 14 Remedies To Try
- Use a heat patch: Heat helps relax the muscles of your uterus to relieve cramps and pain. You can use a heat patch or hot water bags on your abdomen and your back. Applying heat also improves circulation to relieve pain and cramps.
- Massage your tummy with essential oils: massaging with the right essential oils can be helpful in relieving cramps and pain. Mix the essential oil with a carrier oil to ensure skin absorption and massage with your palms in a circular motion. Some essential oils to try for period pains are rose, lavender, sage, cinnamon, clove and marjoram.
- Take a pain reliever: Over-the-counter painkillers are also one of the ways to reduce cramps and pain when on your period. According to medical professionals, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are the best for relieving period pain. These painkillers also reduce the number of prostaglandins released to reduce pain and cramps.
- Exercise: Exercise for period cramps helps ease the pain and cramps naturally. Regular exercise impacts period cramps and pains positively as we will discuss in the next section. You can indulge in stretching or walking when you are on your period.
- Soak in a tub: Soaking in a tub of hot water is a way of surrounding your abdominal, pelvic and back muscles with warmth. Adding a few drops of essential oils to your hot water bath can enhance your experience.
- Do yoga: Yoga is another good way to relieve period cramps. Yoga asanas and stretching helps your muscles relax and reduces cramps and pain.
- Take supplements: Dietary supplements can help reduce period cramps and pain.
- Avoid caffeine and salty foods: Foods that cause water retention, bloating and discomforts like caffeine, alcohol and salty and fatty foods should be avoided by you when on your periods.
- Stay hydrated: Abdominal cramps hurt even more and are more painful if you are dehydrated. Drink lots of water and eat foods that hydrate your body.
- Try acupressure: Acupressure involves using the fingers to firmly apply pressure on specific body parts to help ease pains and cramps during periods. Acupressure reduces the severity and duration of your periods.
- Consider birth control: Many healthcare professionals prescribe birth control pills and other methods of birth control to help deal with period cramps, pains and other symptoms like PMS and mood swings.
- Try a TENS machine: Using a transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation which uses low-voltage electrical currents to treat pain can also be used to reduce the severity of your period pains and cramps.
- Consider CBD: CBD is known to help many menstruators with inflammation and pain.
- Change your sleeping position: some reports suggest that sleeping in the fetal position helps as there is no weight on your abdomen and back in this position.
How To Maintain A Diet And Exercise That Can Help In The Long Run?
A healthy and nutritious diet and regular exercise are known to help reduce period pain and cramps. In this section, we will look at how diet and exercise can help relieve menstrual cramps.
Healthy Diet For Preventing Menstrual Cramps
If you are looking for a diet that helps you reduce menstrual cramps, you must be sure of adding more fibre and plant-based foods to your diet. Reducing processed foods also helps. Drinking more water is also essential for reducing period cramps. Some foods that must be a part of your diet are:
- Brown rice for vitamin B6 to reduce bloating.
- Papaya for vitamins.
- Pumpkin seeds, walnuts and almonds for manganese.
- Chicken, fish and green leafy vegetables for iron.
- Flaxseeds for omega-3s to reduce inflammation.
- Boron-rich foods like avocado, prunes, chickpeas, peanut butter and bananas to help your body absorb calcium and phosphorus.
- Hydrate yourself to prevent bloating by adding cucumbers, watermelons, celery, lettuce and berries to your diet.
- Dairy products for calcium to reduce muscle cramps during your periods.
Exercising For Menstrual Cramps
Exercising releases endorphins and is hence good for menstrual cramps and pain. When on your period, you can go on a walk or indulge in light physical activity. Yoga is the best exercise for period cramps. Yoga and stretching also help relieve pain and cramps. Some yoga asanas that you can try for your cramps are the child’s pose, cobra pose, plank pose and cat-cow pose.
When Should You Consider Seeing A Doctor?
Period pain is considered one of the most common happenings during your period but excessive period pain and period cramps are not normal. If your period cramps and pains do not let you go about a regular day and hinder your activity, you must consider seeking medical help immediately. There are also other reasons why you should see a gynaecologist for your period pains and cramps. The following is when you should see your doctor:
- No medicine, food item or exercise for period cramps helps relieve the pain.
- The pain worsens over time with time and there is also heavier bleeding.
- The cramps are a new symptom after the age of 25.
- Your cramps are accompanied by other severe symptoms like diarrhoea, nausea, fatigue, dizziness and loose stools.
Period pains and cramps should not be ignored under the pretext of being normal. There could be an underlying medical condition and it is best that a medical professional helps you diagnose the causes based on your symptoms to suggest the right period cramps remedies.
In the previous sections of this article, we have looked at the symptoms, causes and remedies of period cramps and period pain. Managing period pain is important to ensure that you can very well go about with your day with ease even when you are on your period. As a menstruator, you are aware of your cycle and the various patterns that come with it and you can accordingly choose the right remedy for your period cramps and period pains. As we conclude this article, we hope that you might have identified the causes of period cramps and period pains and the remedies like the foods and exercises that will help you get some relief from the same.
In this section, we will be answering some of the most frequently asked questions related to period cramps dysmenorrhea. This will help you identify some instant relief methods and remedies for common period pain and cramps.
How do you get rid of period cramps fast?
Some of the fastest ways to relieve menstrual cramps include:
- Applying heat by using a heat patch.
- Taking pain relieving medicines.
- Yoga and exercises.
- Eat right.
What helps menstrual cramps naturally?
The most common and effective natural period cramp remedies include:
- Massage with essential oils.
- Drink herbal tea.
- Eat anti-inflammatory foods.
- Use heat patches or hot water bags.
How can I immediately stop my period pain?
Period pain is a part of the menstrual cycle but often you might be looking for instant pain relief. Taking pain relief medicines is one of the best ways of immediately managing your period pain.