Dysmenorrhea, also known as menstrual cramps, is a condition that affects around 50% of women and girls. It’s believed to be caused by a group of fatty compounds called prostaglandinsand can be anywhere from a minor nuisance to outright debilitating.
Usually, the cramps are harmless. However, sometimes they can be a sign of a deeper underlying problem, especially if they are severe and combined with other symptoms.
The cramps can be successfully dealt with in a number of ways if they appear on their own and if they’re not excessively painful. In cases when they’re accompanied by other conditions and problems, it is best to treat the cramps as part of a therapy for the underlying problem. Keep reading for more info on how to get rid of period cramps.
WHY DO PERIOD CRAMPS HAPPEN?
A certain level of discomfort around the thighs, lower back, and abdomen during menstruation is quite normal. The womb muscles contract in order to aid in shedding the lining. Some of the most common side effects experienced by many women include headaches, vomiting, diarrhea, and nausea.
Although no one knows the exact reason why some women experience painful menstruation, some conditions are known to contribute to it. For example, hormonal imbalances, inflammation, uterine fibroids, and endometriosis can heighten the levels of menstrual pain, as is the use of birth control pills.
Also, some groups might be more prone to painful periods than others. They include those under the age of 20 and those who’ve just started having periods, first-time mothers, those with heavy bleeding, and sensitivity or overproduction of prostaglandins.
OTC PAIN MEDS
Over-the-counter meds, most notably NSAIDs, are among the first solutions women resort to when faced with painful periods. They block the production of prostaglandins, which in turn reduces the pain and discomfort caused by period cramps.
As claimed in an overview of studies from, NSAIDs are far better at suppressing menstrual pain than analgesics like acetaminophen (Tylenol).
GET A MASSAGE
If the cramps are not that severe and you’re not keen on taking medications, you might try a massage with essential oils. The therapy involves massaging the abdominal area and applying pressure at certain points.
The sessions don’t take long, usually around 20-30 minutes, but they provide immediate relief. A study published in 2010 also found that essential oil massage can have long-term beneficial effects on menstrual pain.
REDUCE STRESS LEVELS
While thinking happy and relaxing thoughts isn’t the easiest thing to do when you’re lying in the bed riddled with pain, reducing stress levels can tremendously improve the situation. A studypublished back in 2010 found that high levels of stress can greatly increase the likelihood of period cramps, as well as the severity of the symptoms.
The authors of the study recommend taking due care of yourself and regularly engaging in activities that you love and enjoy.
For some women, heat can do the trick. There are those who have used bottles filled with warm water and heating pads around the abdomen and lower back to combat menstrual pan. For others, a hot shower or bath can bring relief.
A study published in 2005 by researchers from University College London found that the application of heat to the skin can block pain signals for a short period of time. A study published in 2012 and conducted on women aged between 18 and 30 concluded that a heating pad at 104 degrees Fahrenheit had the same effect as ibuprofen.
HAVE A HOT CUP OF TEA
Staying on the same note, drinking a cup of hot tea may also be helpful in reducing the symptoms of dysmenorrhea. Though the scientific evidence is scarce, the heat might help to ease the pain from within similar to the external effect of heating pads and hot water bottles. Some of the most commonly used teas for this purpose include chamomile, mint, ginger tea, green tea, and others.
Moderate physical activity has been found to decrease the levels of pain experienced during the period. A research study published in 2008 goes so far as to claim that exercising may even be effective enough to eliminate the need for NSAIDs and acetaminophen.
The decrease in pain is due to the increased production of endorphins when your body is active. Endorphins relax your muscles and decrease the feeling of pain. They also help to get rid of stress.
If you’re not a fan of strenuous physical exercise, you might want to give yoga a try. A studypublished in 2011 found that certain positions, namely Fish, Cat, and Cobra, can reduce dysmenorrhea symptoms in young adult women.
Magnesium is an important nutrient, as the body needs it for the regulation of muscle and nerve functions. A 2017 review published in the Magnesium Research journal claims that magnesium deficiency can be linked to a host of gynecological issues, including dysmenorrhea and PMS. The same review posits that stable and healthy levels of magnesium can help relax uterine muscles and relieve menstrual pain.
Magnesium-rich foods include spinach, almonds, tuna, salmon, avocado, and dark chocolate, among others. If you can’t get 320mg per day of magnesium through your regular diet, you can try taking supplements.
Needless to say, smoking is one of the worst habits one can adopt. While seriously detrimental to your health on a global scale, smoking can also cause problems with menstrual cramps, according to a report published in 2015 in Tobacco Control. The review demonstrates that the likelihood of menstrual cramps correlates with start smoking age.
Quitting tobacco will boost your overall health, including the easing of menstrual cramps. While it’s not easy by any stretch, the reward should be enough of an incentive.
THE BIRTH-CONTROL PILL
Drawing its conclusion from numerous studies, a research review published in the 2009 Cochrane Database of Systemic Reviews claimed that contraceptive pills could potentially lessen the symptoms of dysmenorrhea. The review found that medium- and low-estrogen pills were equally effective at battling period pain.
If you decide to take this route, be informed that the common side effects of hormonal birth control pills include nausea, spotting, decreased libido, increased risk of blood clots, and breast tenderness.
Apart from the above, there are countless other traditional and modern methods you can use. If you’re wondering how to get rid of period cramps, you can also try taking more fish oil, as it is good at fighting off the pain and inflammation.
Introducing a healthier and more balanced diet can have a wide range of positive effects on your health, including less severe menstrual pains. Also, having an orgasm can be beneficial if you’re suffering from menstrual cramps, as it boosts the production of oxytocin and endorphins.
Finally, if none of the methods work, make sure to visit your gynecologist.