Menstrual cramps


Menstrual cramps, called dysmenorrhea, affect almost half of all women before and/or during menstruation. While not uncommon, these cramps can be uncomfortable at best and debilitating at worst. Below is some information to better understand the condition and some strategies for helping to alleviate the pain and disruption to your life.

Menstrual cramps describe the throbbing or aching pains in the abdominal and surrounding regions which are caused by contractions of the uterus as it expels its lining during a monthly period. Cramps can be mild or severe and are often accompanied by other symptoms such as headache, dizziness, nausea, bloating, loose bowels or radiating pain to the lower back and thighs.

Some of the most common treatments include:

Heat packs– many women report a noticeable improvement in discomfort when they apply heat to the abdomen during their period. Microwavable heat packs or even a warm bath or shower can help to relieve pain.

Relaxation– emotional stress does little to help physical pain so it is beneficial to practice relaxation techniques such as deep breathing or meditation to calm the body. Massage using essential oils can also produce effective results. It is a good idea to check the use of these with a health professional to ensure you are using them correctly for your condition.

Acupuncture– many studies reveal that acupuncture is effective in relaxing the nervous system, stimulating good circulation and blood flow to internal organs.

Exercise– during exercise, the body releases endorphins which aid pain relief, not to mention improving mood. Yoga is believed to be particularly helpful in reducing the severity of menstrual cramps.

Healthy habits– making good choices about your overall health can improve your chances of avoiding monthly cramps. Examples include not smoking, limiting alcohol intake and taking precautions to reduce the risk of sexually transmitted disease.

Diet– a general anti-inflammatory diet is recommended. This involves increasing vegetable intake and reducing levels of fat in the diet. Dietary magnesium is believed to contribute to reduced pain in the body. Sources of magnesium include almonds or spinach. Sometimes dietary supplements are helpful to reach the desired levels. The same can be said for omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil and vitamin B1.

Pain medication– anti-inflammatory medications can prove effective in managing pain from cramps and other period-related symptoms. Always make sure to follow the instructions on the label.

As a rule of thumb, whenever you experience pain of some kind, it is important to know the cause of the pain so you can treat it properly. Some level of period pain is considered normal but severe pain, very heavy bleeding, extreme fatigue, fainting or such symptoms are not. It is recommended to discuss your symptoms with your doctor. It is also advisable to seek medical advice if the onset of cramps is sudden or progressively getting worse.

Additionally, certain health conditions can be the cause of menstrual pain. Some examples include endometriosis, uterine fibroids, structural anomalies in the uterus or surrounding areas, pelvic inflammatory disease (usually caused by sexually transmitted infections) or recent insertion of an intrauterine device (IUD). If left untreated, these conditions can worsen the symptoms of menstrual cramps but can also lead to other complications such as infertility.

For more advice on how to minimise the effects of period pain, visit your local Chemistworks store where our staff will be able to assist you in finding the most suitable products for your needs.