If you feel pain in your lower abdominal area during your menstrual cycle every month, you are certainly not alone. An estimated 50-90% of women complain about painful periods at some point in their lives.
If you are one of the many women who suffer each month, here are some ways to relieve the pain.
Getting rid of period cramps without medication
Period cramps generally show up in the days leading up to and through the first few days of the menstrual cycle. This happens as the muscles of the uterus contract to shed its lining in response to a hormone-like substance called prostaglandins. In most cases, cramps are manageable with self-care practices and over-the-counter medications.
To help your uterine muscles relax, place either a heating pad or hot water bottle on your lower abdomen. Another great option is a warm, soothing bath.
Exercise releases endorphins, a hormone that acts as a natural pain killer and can help reduce cramping. 30-60 minutes of exercise during the days where you are experiencing cramps can greatly help to relieve the pain associated with your menstrual cycle.
Although menstrual cycles are most commonly associated with cramping in the lower abdomen, plenty of women experience pain in other body parts including back pain or even pain in the upper portion of the legs. To combat this, a massage, acupressure, herbal remedies, and acupuncture may help.
Medications that relieve period cramps
Over-the-counter medications are many women’s go-to remedy for alleviating pain and understandably so. They act quickly, are inexpensive, available without a prescription, and are generally easy to dose. Here are some popular OTC medications:
- Ibuprofen acts as an anti-inflammatory helping to reduce the number of uterine contractions and, therefore, alleviate the pain. You can start taking it as soon as the pain begins then use it as needed for a few days.
- Naproxen acts in a similar way to ibuprofen.
- Acetaminophen is an alternative recommended to women who cannot tolerate ibuprofen or naproxen.
When to consult your doctor about period pain
If you find that the pain from your menstrual cycle is so bad it’s disrupting your life, and OTC medications give only minimal to no relief, it is time for a medical evaluation and treatment options. An OBGYN may find that more is going on than just your uterine muscles contracting.
Sometimes, the pain may be caused by conditions such as endometriosis or fibroids. Fibroids are growths inside the uterus that can increase pain or bleeding during a menstrual cycle. Endometriosis occurs when extra tissue grows on the outside of the uterus. Just like the tissue that lines the uterus, the extra tissue breaks down during the menstrual cycle. Its shedding and removal can become impaired which causes severe pain.
Both these conditions can cause severe pain during the menstrual cycle, but there are ways to manage and treat them. However, you will generally not know if you have endometriosis or fibroids without a medical evaluation. That is why it is imperative to consult with an OBGYN if you are experiencing severe pain.