How To Relieve Painful Menstrual Cramps
If you’re one of the millions of women who experience painful menstrual cramps every month, then you’re probably looking for some sort of pain relief. For some women, the monthly flow is not just a time of annoyance or a passing inconvenience, but is a time of severe pain that they dread from month to month.
Here are a few tips that can help you deal with painful menstrual cramps:
Drink lots of water and maintain a healthy diet
Pay attention to what you eat and see if there are specific foods that increase cramp severity or reduce the pain. While certain tips, like avoiding chocolate during your period, are mostly myths, these bits of folk advice ring true for many women with cramps.
Use a hot water bottle or heating pad on your lower abdomen
Menstrual cramps are caused by the contracting of your uterus, so what you really need is relax the uterus. Since cramps are similar to muscle pain in this way, applying heat, like with sore muscles, will help relax the uterus and ease up the menstrual cramps.
Lay on your stomach
Applying pressure to your uterus may relieve some of the pain and laying on your belly is the best way to do that.
Take a painkiller
Certain painkillers, like Celebrex for example, are specially designed to relieve muscle pain and inflammation, including menstrual cramps. Millions of women find relief in Celebrex, especially when nothing else seems to work for them. You can buy generic Celebrex online as an affordable and efficient option.
Exercise is often considered a cure-all for many conditions, including painful menstrual cramps. Moving around and being active will not only take your mind off of cramps, but will also serve as pain relief by sending healing endorphins to the brain and by stretching the uterus during movements.
Applying heat to your lower abdomen or lower back can help relax the contracting muscles in your uterus, which cause much of the pain associated with your period. You can use a regular water bottle or thermos filled with hot water, or you can invest in an over-the-counter heating pad or patch that can help alleviate your menstrual pain.
Take a warm bath
Taking a warm bath may also provide some of the same relief you may feel when you apply heat to your lower abdomen and back to ease menstrual cramps. You can try taking a warm bath in addition to treating your body with heat in order to ease your menstrual pain. At worst, it will at least help you relax, which can help ease cramping throughout your body.
Get some light exercise
When you’re on your period, then exercising may seem about as appealing as putting your hand in a beehive. However, making an effort to exercise, even if you’re just going for a short walk, while you’re on your period, can actually reduce the cramps and pain that you’re feeling. This is because aerobic exercise makes your body pump more blood, which lets it release endorphins to counteract the prostaglandins in your body, reducing your cramps and pain.
Try specific exercises for cramp relief
Though any moderate exercise can help relieve your menstrual pain, you may want to try some specific exercises that may help ease your pain.
Empty your bladder as soon as you need to
Not emptying your bladder when you feel the urge to urinate can cause pain in your bladder, and can make your cramps feel even worse. Even if you’re in a significant amount of pain and don’t want to leave your bed for the afternoon, making sure to empty your bladder regularly can help you ease your menstrual pain. Since hydrating is an important aspect of staying healthy during your period, you may even have to empty your bladder more frequently than normal.
Know that there’s no medical proof that tampons cause more cramping than pads
Though you may have heard a rumor that tampons cause more cramping than pads, there is absolutely no proof that this is the case. If tampons are hurting you, then there may be some other reason, and you should talk to your doctor about it, but the fact that pads cause less pain than tampons is just a plain myth.
Drink More Water
Menstrual cramps, or primary dysmenorrhea, are an uncomfortable part of life for many women on a monthly basis. Drinking more water may help ease bloating, which makes symptoms worse. Get in the habit of drinking 6 to 8 glasses of water per day, especially during your period. Add some mint or a lemon wedge to make it more palatable. While you’re at it, back off of the salt, which encourages fluid retention and bloating. Avoid alcohol, which promotes dehydration. Some women experience diarrhea or vomiting in conjunction with menstrual cramps. It’s important to replace lost fluids by drinking plenty of water.
Easy Ways to Get More Fluids
If you don’t like the taste of plain water, there are many things you can do to increase fluid intake. Start by drinking a glass of fruit-infused water the first thing after you get up in the morning. Sip chamomile or ginger tea. Drink flavored mineral water for a new twist on hydration. Make a pitcher of cucumber, mint, or lemon water to drink throughout the day for a spa-like treat. Sip a cup of low sodium broth to increase your fluid intake. Staying well hydrated isn’t just good for cramps, it’s good for your overall health.
Diet Is Key
You may be craving fatty, sugary, or salty foods when you have your period, but these foods are not your friends. Skip the doughnuts and potato chips. Some women find that eating the right kinds of foods may help ease menstrual pain. Anti-inflammatory foods like cherries, blueberries, squash, tomatoes, and bell peppers are good choices. Coldwater fish that is high in omega-3 fatty acids are also healthy choices. Eat more calcium-rich beans, almonds, and dark leafy greens. These foods contain compounds that combat inflammation. Some women report that eating this way can help ease menstrual pain and boost health. It’s best to eat a healthy, balanced diet year round, not just for a few days a month during your period.
Your dietary and lifestyle habits can either help or hurt period cramps. If you experience monthly menstrual discomfort, some women find it helpful to avoid certain foods. Skip white, refined foods including sugar, bread, and pasta. Avoid trans-fatty acids that are found most often in commercially-prepared foods like French fries, cookies, onion rings, crackers, and margarine. Ditch alcohol, tobacco, and caffeine. All of these things increase inflammation and may encourage period pain. There is some evidence to show that reducing harmful fat intake may also help relieve painful periods.
Sip Chamomile Tea
Sipping chamomile tea may help reduce cramps when you menstruate. Chamomile tea is full of anti-inflammatory substances that inhibit prostaglandins. Prostaglandins are made by cells in the endometrium of the uterus. These cells release prostaglandins during a woman’s period, provoking muscle contractions of the uterus, pain, and cramps. Prostaglandins in the bloodstream are responsible for nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and headache during the menstrual period. NSAIDs like naproxen and ibuprofen reduce prostaglandin production. Sipping chamomile tea inhibits pain-causing prostaglandins and enhances menstrual flow to ease period symptoms.
In one study, approximately 80 percent of young women who took capsules containing 30 milligrams of fennel extract 4 times a day for 3 days prior to the start of their menstrual period experienced less pain than those who took a placebo. Researchers believe fennel inhibits uterine contractions that are stimulated by prostaglandins. Fennel extract may be a good option for the approximately 10 percent of women who can’t do their normal activities for 1 to 3 days during their periods due to severe menstrual cramps.
A Sprinkle of Cinnamon
In a study of young women, those who took capsules containing 420 milligrams of cinnamon 3 times a day for the first 3 days of their menstrual cycle had less menstrual bleeding, less pain, and reductions in nausea and frequency of vomiting compared to those who took a placebo. The women didn’t report any side effects associated with taking cinnamon pills. Try a sprinkle of cinnamon on your cereal or cup of hot cocoa. It can’t hurt and it might help your cramps and other period symptoms.
Go for Ginger
A study of young women found that ginger capsules relieved symptoms of primary dysmenorrhoea including painful periods as well as NSAIDs like ibuprofen and mefenamic acid. Women in the ginger group took 250 milligram capsules of ginger 4 times a day for the first 3 days of their periods. Women in the mefanamic acid group took 250 milligram capsules 4 times per day while those in the ibuprofen group took 400 milligrams per day 4 times per day. Women in each of the 3 treatment groups reported similar pain relief, satisfaction with treatment, and reductions in severity of dysmenorrhea regardless of which treatment they took. None of the women in the study reported severe side effects with any treatment. Try a little ginger if you’d like a drug-free alternative for period pain relief.
The Power of Pycnogenol
Pycnogenol is a plant extract derived from the maritime pine tree found in the southwestern region of France. The extract contains several potent antioxidant compounds. In one study of women between the ages of 18 and 48 years old, those who experienced dysmenorrhea who took a supplement containing 60 milligrams of pycnogenol during their periods had significantly less pain and needed less pain medication compared to when they didn’t take the supplement. They also needed pain medication for fewer days when they took the pycnogenol supplement. Surprisingly, women still needed less pain medication during their periods even after they stopped taking the pycnogenol. However, women who had low levels of menstrual pain weren’t helped by the supplement. Ask your doctor if pycnogenol may help relieve severe pain associated with your period.
Dill for Period Pain
Researchers tested the effectiveness of dill powder versus mefenamic acid, an NSAID, for the treatment of menstrual cramps in a group of young female students. Women were separated into 3 groups: the dill group, the mefenamic acid group, and the placebo group. Women started 5 days of treatment beginning from 2 days before the start of their menstrual periods. Researchers found that dill powder relieved menstrual pain as well as over-the-counter pain medication. If you’d like to try a non-drug treatment for menstrual pain, dill may be a candidate.
Fish Oil and Vitamin B1
Researchers studied the effects of vitamin B1 and fish oil on dysmenorrhea symptoms in high school students. The young women were separated into 4 different groups. One group took 100 milligrams of vitamin B1 per day. Another took 500 milligrams of fish oil per day. One group took a combination of both vitamin B1 and fish oil daily. The last group took a placebo. The women took the treatment at the beginning of their menstrual cycles and continued for 2 months. Compared to those in the placebo group, those who took vitamin B1, fish oil, or both reported significantly less pain. The women who took fish oil or B1 also reported their pain didn’t last as long compared to those in the placebo group.
The Sunshine of Vitamin D
Cramps associated with dysmenorrhea can be disabling. Painful cramps associated with dysmenorrhea occur due to increasing levels of prostaglandins, which cause the uterus to contract. These contractions cause the shedding of the uterine lining. Vitamin D reduces the production of prostaglandins. In one study of young women who had primary dysmenorrhea and low vitamin D levels, high weekly doses of supplemental vitamin D decreased pain intensity significantly both 8 weeks into treatment and 1 month after the end of treatment. The women taking vitamin D also took less pain medication to treat period pain. You can ask your doctor to measure your vitamin D levels with a simple blood test.
The Anti-Cramp Mineral Calcium
Calcium is a nutrient that everyone needs, but most women don’t get enough. We need calcium not just for healthy bones, but for proper function of the heart, muscles, and nervous system. Adequate calcium intake may also help relieve menstrual cramps. In a study of young women, those who took a supplement containing 1,000 milligrams of calcium per day beginning on day 15 of their menstrual cycle until menstrual pain stopped in the following cycle experienced less intense menstrual pain than those who took a placebo. Load up on low-fat dairy products, fortified orange juice, canned sardines and salmon, and other calcium-rich foods to get your daily fill of this important mineral.
Chinese Herbal Medicine
Traditional treatment for primary dysmenorrhea doesn’t always work, and sometimes women can’t tolerate treatment. Approximately 20 to 25 percent of women aren’t helped by conventional treatments for dysmenorrhea or they can’t take them. Chinese herbal medicine may be an effective treatment option for women who suffer from primary dysmenorrhea. In several studies, Chinese herbal medicine was effective for relieving pain and reducing overall symptoms. Women who took Chinese herbal medicine for dysmenorrhea needed less pain medication, too.
Skip the Caffeine
Eliminating caffeine helps many women relieve menstrual pain. Caffeine comes in many forms including coffee, tea, soda, chocolate, and energy drinks. If you consume caffeine daily, you may need to taper your dose down slowly to avoid withdrawal symptoms. As a substitute, try smoothies loaded with antioxidant-rich greens, berries, and protein powder. The nutrients will give you a much needed pick me up without the increased pain that can accompany caffeine.
A study with 944 participants showed that acupuncture may potentially ease the symptoms of dysmenorrhea, which is commonly known as period pain, which include vomiting, nausea, and cramping. Though further research needs to be done with a larger number of participants, the study does suggest that acupuncture may ease the pain of period pain and has no adverse effects. If you’re looking for an original and innovative solution for your pain, this treatment may just do the trick.
Consider taking birth control
Birth control has been proven to reduce cramps in many women. If you’re not on the birth control pill, you may want to consider talking to your doctor about taking it. You may think that they are only for sexually active women, when in fact, birth control can be taken to reduce cramps and other menstrual pain, as well as to regulate your period. If your menstrual pain is very severe, then you may want to consider this option
If none of these solutions work for you, consider making an appointment to see your doctor. You could have a more serious medical condition that needs further attention.