How Much Period Pain Is Normal
If youre like most women, youve experienced period pain at some point in your life. A little bit of mild cramping can be considered normal, especially at the beginning of your period. But ideally, you wont even feel your period coming at all.
If youre consistently having to pop painkillers like candy, or youre in too much pain to go to work or school, then something deeper is going on. That type of period pain is not normal. In medicine, painful periods are called dysmenorrhea.
Your period is like a barometer of your overall health. It tells you how well your body is being nourished , how much stress youve been under, and how much inflammation might be going on in your body.
Its important to uncover the root causes of why your hormones are in turmoil so that you can find the least invasive, safest and most effective solution.
The great news is that womens hormonal issues respond beautifully to natural medicine and, with a little detective work, you can troubleshoot your problems to get back on the road to wellness.
First, lets explore the causes of menstrual pain.
Im going to get all sciency because I want you to really understand whats going on inside of your body. I even made a cute little drawing to help explain everything. Bear with me and keep reading. Itll all make sense I promise!
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Theyre Paired With Heavy Abnormal Bleeding
If your cramping is associated with heavy, abnormal bleeding, that can also be a sign that something more serious is going on. If youre soaking through more than a pad an hour over a two-hour time period, thats abnormal bleeding, warns Dr. Levine. Thats worrisome. Thats not regular period cramps or regular period bleeding.
When To Seek Care
If youre not sure if what youre experiencing is routine menstrual pain or something else, or you have other concerning symptoms, talk with a medical professional. Make sure to connect with a doctor if your pain is causing a fever or vomiting, or if pain is so severe its making you miss school, work, or other events.
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Q Is It Safe To Have Sex During Period
A. It is completely safe to have sex during your period. It is very unlikely that you will get pregnant but make sure to always use a condom. It all depends on the comfort you share with your partner. Most people find it a little off-putting because of the presence of blood, and it can be a messy affair.
Menstrual Cramps Are Classified As
1. Primary Dysmenorrhoea
- Arises in women under the age of 20.
- One may feel mild to severe pain in the lower abdomen, back, and thighs. It starts right before the period and usually lasts between 12-72 hours.
- Due to pain caused by uterine muscle contractions. During menses, a high level of prostaglandins has released that act as chemical messengers which shed the uterine lining by uterine contraction causing pain during menstruation.
2. Secondary Dysmenorrhoea
- One may feel mild to severe pain in your lower abdomen, back, and thighs. It starts right before your period and usually lasts between 12-72 hours.
- It often first arises after a young woman has already been menstruating for several years. Here, women may also have pain at times of the month other than during menstruation.
- Pain during menstruation such as benign uterine growths , endometriosis uterine tissue lining growing outside the uterus elsewhere in the abdomen or pelvis, PID infection of the upper part of the female reproductive system.
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Acupuncture May Help By Relaxing The Nervous System
Acupuncture can help relieve cramps, says Jeannie Bianchi, a licensed acupuncturist in San Francisco. This ancient Asian healing method is thought to relax the nervous system, allow more blood to flow to internal organs, and quell inflammation, Bianchi says.
In a review published in April 2016 in the CochraneDatabase of Systematic Reviews experts looked at 42 studies that observed the effects of acupuncture on period cramps. Each compared acupuncture with no treatment, conventional treatment , or a sham acupuncture procedure. Many of the studies found that the acupuncture group had less period pain and no side effects. The researchers emphasize, however, that the quality of all of the studies was poor.
Frequently Asked Questionsexpand All
Yes, if you have painful periods you and your obstetrician-gynecologist should talk about your symptoms and your menstrual cycle. If needed, your ob-gyn may recommend a pelvic exam. A first step in treatment may be medications. If medications do not relieve your pain, treatment should focus on finding the cause of your pain.
An ultrasound exam may be done when pain is not relieved with medications. In some cases, an ob-gyn may recommend a laparoscopy. This is a procedure that lets an ob-gyn view the organs in the pelvis. With laparoscopy, a small incision is made near the belly button. A thin, lighted cameraa laparoscopeis inserted into the abdomen. Laparoscopy often is done with general anesthesia in a surgery center or hospital.
Medications are usually the first step when treating painful periods. Certain pain relievers target prostaglandins. These medications, called nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs , reduce the prostaglandins made by the body and lessen their effects. This in turn makes menstrual cramps less severe. Most NSAIDs, such as ibuprofen and naproxen, can be bought over the counter.
Acupuncture, acupressure, and nerve stimulation therapies may be useful for treating painful periods. Physical therapy that eases trigger points also may help with pain.
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Foods That Might Help With Cramps
If youre looking for the best food for period cramps, choose light, healthy fruits and vegetables that wont be heavy in your stomach. Fruits and veggies, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds can help decrease inflammation in the body and can help menstrual cramps.
The great news is the best foods for period cramps can often be found in your fridge! Top health foods on this list are common and great choices when youre looking for what to eat when you have cramps. There are plenty of foods that might help with menstrual cramps.
If youre looking to adjust your diet and stock up on foods that might help with cramps, here are some to try:
Conditions That Can Worsen Menstrual Cramps
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Massage With Essential Oils For Pain Relief
Massaging your skin with certain aromatic essential oils can relieve menstrual cramp pain, according to research published in The Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology Research. Investigators asked 48 women with menstrual cramps and other symptoms to massage either essential oils or a synthetic fragrance into their lower abdomen between periods.
Women in both groups reported less pain, but the essential oils group did better. Based on the women’s reports, researchers found that the duration of pain was reduced by almost a half a day after self-massaging with the essential oils.
Some oils thought to be helpful include lavender essential oil, clary sage essential oil, and .
Just be sure youre using essential oils safely. Buy high-quality oils that are tested for purity. The National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy suggests diluting pure essential oils in an unscented cream, lotion, or carrier oil before placing it on your skin to avoid irritation.
What Is Menstrual Cramping
The painful cramping women experience during the menstrual period is caused by a release of the hormone prostaglandin. This stimulates the muscles in the uterus to contract. The pain can radiate to the lower back and usually diminishes within the first few days. Other causes of the cramps experienced during this time may be linked to poor diet, emotional stress, thyroid irregularities, or environmental toxins.
The severity of the cramping can depend on genetics, quantity of blood flow, and whether symptoms began at an early age. A persons lifestyle habits may also affect menstruation such as smoking, physical activity, and the use of alcohol and any illegal drugs.
Menstrual cramps may become less prevalent after childbirth, but luckily, we have some less drastic methods and tips for how to stop period cramps below.
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How Can I Prevent Pid
Getting tested for STDs is one of the best ways to prevent PID, because PID is usually caused by chlamydia or gonorrhea. Most people with chlamydia or gonorrhea dont have any symptoms, so testing is the only way to know for sure if you have one of these infections.
Chlamydia and gonorrhea can be easily treated and cured with antibiotics and the sooner you get tested and treated, the lower your risk is for developing PID. You can also help prevent these and other STDs by having safer sex and using condoms every time you have sex.
And hormonal birth control does NOT prevent sexually transmitted infections, so even if youre using birth control youre at risk for STDs. So its a good idea to use a condom with your birth control to prevent STDs that can turn into PID.
Douching is generally not healthy for your vagina, and can cause irritation and infections. Douching may also lead to PID, because it pushes bacteria deeper into your body. So dont douche!
PID is really common, and its easy to develop PID without knowing it. Thats why its so important to get tested for STDs and see a doctor if you notice any symptoms of PID.
Avoid Foods That Cause Intolerance
If you have a sensitivity to a certain food, like dairy, wheat, or eggs, then eating those foods will cause your stomach and intestines to react. Not only will it increase the amount of stomach growling after eating, but it can lead to health problems.
Eating foods your body is intolerant to causes irritation and inflammation of the stomach and intestines and makes it hard to process food. If you continue to eat food your body is sensitive to, you can develop conditions like irritable bowel syndrome and leaky gut, which can interrupt your daily activities.
Its not easy to avoid certain foods in todays world of busy schedules. If your stomach wont stop growling, keep a food diary. If youre experiencing frequent bowel problems, bring your food diary to your medical professional. They may be able to point out some food sensitivity concerns. Common sensitivities include lactose, gluten, soy, fish, and eggs. If you notice that some foods seem to be the cause of excessive borborygmus, mention them to your doctor.
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Improving Your Diet May Alleviate Period Cramps
Start by swapping out less healthy fats like the saturated fats found in animal products for healthier ones like unsaturated fats found in olive oil, suggests the American Heart Association. Overall, try to make the fats you eat better quality, such as those found in fish or nuts, the organization suggests. Examples of meals not overly reliant on fats can be found in the healthy eating plate guide from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
They Pull Out The Heat
“When I’m on the go, I stick an adhesive heating pad or rub some tiger balm onto my lower abdomen so that I can keep on seeing patients, or rocking skinny jeans while I’m bleeding,” says , M.D., an ob-gyn with the Womens Group of Northwestern. That’s because applying heat to your abdomen can actually help the uterine muscles relax, which means less cramping, she explains.
But even making yourself a cup of hot herbal tea to drink in transit will help warm and relax you from the inside, says Sheppard, which is why she goes for chamomile that time of month. Stay away from hot cocoa or other sugary beverages, though, and stick to herbal teas, she suggests, because excess sugar intake can worsen cramps.
And if the cramps start at the end of your night, then try drawing yourself a hot and steamy bath. Or take a window-fogging, long shower and blast some tunes. It will have the same effect, says Levitt.
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When All Else Fails Call The Doc
If nothing seems to be helping, talk to your gyno. They can check for any underlying causes, like endometriosis, that might be making your cramps extra-painful. She may also recommend birth control pills, which can thin the uterine lining and make cramps less intense. Cramps may be common, but they shouldn’t interfere with your life, so if you’ve tried everything and you’re still in pain every month, definitely let your doc know.
Mood And Behavioural Changes:
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What I Can Do To Relieve Pms
Many of the things that help ease cramps can also help with PMS. Here are some different ways to relieve PMS symptoms:
Take over-the-counter pain medicine like ibuprofen , naproxen , or acetaminophen . Always follow the instructions on the bottle. Talk with your doctor before taking pain medication if you have an allergy to aspirin or severe asthma.
Do aerobic exercise, like walking, running, riding a bike, swimming, or any activity that gets your heart rate up. Regular exercise is ideal.
Do breathing exercises, meditation, or yoga.
Get plenty of rest. Sleeping regularly every night can help with stress, mood changes, and feeling tired or fatigued.
Eat healthy foods like fruits, veggies , whole grains, and yogurt.
Limit fat, salt, sugar, caffeine, and alcohol.
Make sure you get enough vitamins in your diet, or take vitamin supplements. If you dont get enough calcium, take a supplement of 1200 mg of calcium daily. Magnesium and Vitamin E might also help.
Use hormonal birth control . Your doctor can help you find a birth control method that can help with PMS.
Having A Pelvic Examination
Your GP may want to carry out a pelvic examination to help diagnose or rule out other causes of your period pain.
They’ll insert gloved, lubricated fingers into your vagina to feel for any abnormalities in your womb or ovaries.
The examination won’t be carried out without your permission. You can also ask to have a female GP do it if you prefer. You can bring a friend or relative to the appointment if you want, or ask the practice nurse to be there.
In some cases your GP may also order a pelvic ultrasound.
Heat Pad To Ease Cramping Before Your Period
A heating pad is a great way to get rid of cramping pain that you feel before your period. Warmth can help to reduce abdominal pain that is the result of premenstrual syndrome, endometriosis, ovulation, ovarian cysts, or uterine fibroids.
In fact, according to doctors from the Mayo Clinic, using heat for menstrual pain relief can be as effective as taking pain relievers. This is one of the cheapest and best ways to treat pre-menstrual cramps at home.15
How to use a heating pad for pre-period cramping
You can easily make your own heating pad to help relieve abdominal aches and cramps before menstruation starts. This is what you should do:
Can Pelvic Inflammatory Disease Cause Menstrual Cramps
Pelvic inflammatory disease is an infection of the female reproductive tract that is most commonly caused by untreated sexually transmitted infections. Left untreated, PID can cause inflammation, scarring, painful menstrual cramps, and infertility.
most often occurs because sexually transmitted infections that cause PID can create scar tissue and adhesions in the pelvic region. During menstruation, hormones influence the uterus and surrounding structures including the scar tissue and adhesions which can increase inflammation, bleeding, and pain, says Shilpi Agarwal, MD, a board-certified family medicine and integrative physician in Washington, DC, and a columnist for Everyday Health. If caught early, PID can be treated with antibiotics, but antibiotics wont undo any structural damage caused by the infection. Practice safe sex, and get tested frequently for any sexually transmitted infections, especially if you have severe period pain, Dr. Agarwal advises.
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