Periods can be a pain-- an inconvenience with mood swings migraines, bloats, and nausea. But for some menstruating women, periods are terribly painful. Sharp or aching pains in the lower abdomen can mean inability to do normal activities. Painful menstruation can be a cause of embarrassment and worry. For women younger than age 30, painful menstruation is reported to be a major cause of absenteeism from school and work. In fact, 10% reported they are temporarily disabled by period pain symptoms.
Why Might You Have Menstrual Pain?
Prostaglandins are normal hormones in your body that help your uterus to squeeze or contract and shed its lining. It is believed that women with severe period pain have high levels of prostaglandin and stronger contractions of their uterus. Some discomfort during menstruation is normal. But severe pain may occur that can extend to the back and the top of your legs and may worsen when walking or moving. This menstrual pain is called dysmenorrhea.
There are two types of dysmenorrhea:
- Primary dysmenorrhea - is a severe and frequent menstrual cramping you may experience when you are in general good health.
- Secondary dysmenorrhea - is caused by some other medical condition in the body. These can include: endometriosis (which is tissue implanted outside the uterus), a harmless growth in the uterus, infection, a narrow cervix, an abnormal pregnancy, or an IUD.
Visit Your Doctor or Gynecologist
Your doctor will determine a diagnosis based on: your age, your overall health, your medical history, and the type of pain you are experiencing, primary or secondary. Together you will consider the recommendations and/or treatments. Diagnostic tests may be performed which can include imaging tests including ultrasound, MRI, or laparoscopy.
Some simple care is reported by many women to be soothing and helpful. These methods include:
- Warmth or heat with a heating pad against the area below your navel, a hot bath or shower, or hot drinks such as ginger tea
- Light circular fingertip massage around lower abdomen areas
- Pelvic rocking exercises
- Relaxation techniques of meditation or yoga
- Elevating the legs while lying down or lying on side with knees bent.
Aspirin and anti-inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen which are available over the counter are found to ease pain in about 8 in 10 cases. You may discuss with your pharmacist or doctor which one would suit you best, and the dosage you need. Anti-inflammatory medicines can be harsh on the stomach.
Stronger painkillers can be available on prescription from your doctor. Doctors sometimes prescribe oral contraceptives and other hormonal birth controls to ease period pain.
- Herbal remedies - in the form of capsules, powders, and teas are claimed by many women to help relieve pain and stress. These include: Black cohosh, Evening Primrose Oil, Dong Quai, and Red raspberry, Chamomile and Ginger Root teas.
- Vitamins and Mineral Supplements -Some women have found relief with vitamin and mineral supplements either daily or during their periods. These include: Calcium and Magnesium; Vitamins B-6, B Complex, E, and C; and Essential Fatty Acids.
- TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation) - a machine that gives out a small electric current that seems to interfere with pain signals.
- Chiropractic spinal manipulation
- Therapeutic massage
Practicing good daily nutrition is believed to be helpful in managing the discomforts and pain that can be felt along with periods. Healthful diet recommendations include: increase fresh vegetables, proteins, whole grains and reduce saturated fats, refined foods, salt, sugar, alcohol and caffeine.
In some instances of extreme period pain that does not respond to other methods of control, surgery is recommended. However surgery is rarely used and usually only after other means have not helped. Surgical procedures include removing the lining of the uterus, or hysterectomy, which removes the uterus.
You may be experiencing severe period problems and it is recommended that you call your doctor if you experience:
- A Change in your usual pattern,
- Excessive bleeding requiring more than one pad or tampon per hour,
- Signs of infection such as fever, chills body achesHowever such severe period problems are not common. In most cases you do not have to live with period pain. Successfully easing period pain is possible with many alternatives to choose from.