Most women experience period pain at some point in their lives. It is common and a normal part of the menstruation cycle. Usually characterised by painful muscle cramps in the abdomen, period pain can also spread to your thighs and back.
Period pain can vary between dull and constant cramps to intense spasms. Your experience may also vary with each period. There will be periods where the pain is bearable or even non-existent, while other months may be very painful.
Here’s an article to help you learn more about the symptoms of period pain.
What are the Causes of Period Pain?
Normally, period pain is caused by the contraction (tightening) of the muscles surrounding your womb. Mild contractions of the uterine wall occur every day but they are so mild you won’t even notice them. However, during your period, this contraction becomes more vigorous to help your womb shed its lining.
When your uterine wall contracts, it compresses the blood vessels in your womb --- cutting off blood and oxygen supply. This causes the tissues in your womb to release chemicals that trigger pain. These chemicals also cause your body to produce prostaglandins which stimulate the uterine wall to compress even further --- increasing the pain levels you perceive.
Until now, doctors are not sure why some women experience more painful period pains than others. They suspect that the build-up of prostaglandins in the body is the culprit.
Some medical conditions can also cause period pains. But these tend to affect women between 30 to 45 years old. Some of these medical conditions are:
Fibroids - benign tumours that grow in and around the uterus.
Endometriosis - a case where cells which line the uterus grow in other areas like your ovaries and fallopian tubes. When they shed, these abnormal cell growth can cause intense pain.
Adenomyosis - a condition where the tissues lining the uterus starts to grow within the muscular womb wall.
Pelvic inflammatory disease - an inflammation in the ovaries, womb, and fallopian tubes caused by bacteria.
Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) - usually begins a couple of days before your period. The pain continues into the first two days of your menstruation. 90% of women experience PMS at some point in their lives. According to doctors, PMS may be caused by the dipping of estrogen and progesterone levels at the beginning of your menstruation.
How Long Do Period Pains Last?
Most period pains start when you menstruate. However, some women also experience period pain even weeks before their bleeding begins. Usually, period pains last between two to three days. The pain is at its worst when your bleeding is at its peak. Some period pains can last longer.
Surprisingly, many women experience lesser period pains after they’ve had children.
How to Reduce Period Pains
Below are five simple ways on how to reduce period pains at home:
1. Keep yourself hydrated
Bloating is one of the common symptoms of menstrual cramps. And bloating can make the pain you feel worse. Drinking plenty of liquids can help ease bloating. Make it a habit to drink between six to eight glasses of water every day. You can add some lemon or mint to improve the taste.
There are many ways to hydrate if you are not loving plain water. Try a glass of fruit-infused water or a cup of ginger or chamomile tea. You can also prepare a pitcher of water with lemon and cucumber for the day. Sipping a cup of broth (low sodium) is also a great way to relax and rehydrate. You can also buy flavoured mineral water.
While you are hydrating, cut your alcohol and sodium intake as they promote dehydration and bloating.
2. Get some sunshine
Vitamin D helps reduce the production of prostaglandins in the body. Period pains can be disabling so if you don’t feel like going outside for some sunshine, take some vitamin D supplements. Studies show that high weekly doses of vitamin D can significantly lower the pain of menstrual cramps.
3. Avoid caffeine
Many women report that eliminating caffeine has helped reduce their period pains. Caffeine comes in many forms --- most of it are your favourites (i.e. chocolate, soda, tea, energy drinks, coffee, etc.). If you consume lots of caffeinated products every day, break the habit slowly so you don’t succumb to withdrawal symptoms.
A great substitute for caffeine is smoothies and shakes with protein powder, greens, and berries which are rich in antioxidants and other nutrients.
4. Massage and apply heat
Massages promote blood flow. So, massaging your abdomen for at least five minutes every day can help reduce period pains. Use massage creams with essential oils like marjoram and lavender to take advantage of their amazing benefits --- including soothing the pain caused by menstrual cramps.
While you are at it, consider applying a heating pad to your abdomen too. Heat can help the muscles relax. No heating pad? Just grab a hot water bottle or a warm towel!
5. Take Mefenamic Acid
Mefenamic acid is a popular period pain treatment. This medicine works by reducing inflammation in your uterine wall thus providing relief from pain. Mefenamic acid is an effective pain reliever that belongs to a family of medicines called NSAIDs or non-steroid anti-inflammatory drugs.
Mefenamic acid is taken three times a day for a maximum of three days during your period. Avoid smoking or drinking alcohol while you are taking this medication. You can buy period pain tablets from Express Pharmacy today.