Painful Periods - Information and Treatment Options
Painful menstrual periods, known as dysmenorrhea, are periods in which a woman experiences cramping, lower abdominal pain, intermittent stabbing pains, aching pain, or back pain.
Painful menstruation affects many women, but for a small number, the discomfort makes it difficult to perform normal household, job, or school-related activities for a few days during each menstrual cycle.
Painful menstruation is the leading cause of lost time from school and work among women in their teens and 20's. The pain may begin several days before, or just at the start of your period. It generally lessens as menstrual bleeding tapers off. Although some pain during menstruation is normal, excessive pain is not.
Most types of menstrual pain are not related to any specific problems with the uterus or other pelvic organs. Instead, increased activity of the hormone prostaglandin, which is produced in the uterus, is thought to be a factor in dysmenorrheal that is not related to other women’s health problems.
Menstrual pain can usually be treated with at-home care that includes:
- Applying a heating pad to the lower abdomen (below the belly button)
- Drinking a warm beverage
- Eating light but frequent meals
- Following a diet rich in complex carbohydrates such as whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, but low in salt, sugar, alcohol, and caffeine
- Keeping legs elevated while lying down, or lying on one side with knees bent
- Using relaxation techniques such as meditation or yoga
- Using over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medicine, such as ibuprofen; start taking it the day before a period is expected to start and taking it regularly for the first few days of a period
- Taking vitamin B6, calcium, and magnesium supplements, especially if pain is from PMS
- Taking warm showers or baths
- Walking or exercising regularly, including pelvic rocking exercises
If these self-care measures do not work, a gynecologist (GYN) may prescribe medications such as:
- Birth control pills
- Prescription anti-inflammatory medicines such as meclofenamate (Meclomen)