If you’ve ever experienced period cramps - the really bad ones - then you’ll know they’re no laughing matter. We’ve moaned on the sofa, we’ve cried in the bathroom at the office, we’ve tried to eat the pain away, and yet they just keep coming back month after month.
Understanding what’s behind period pains can help you figure out what to do about them, and find the solutions that work best for your body. Let’s get to the bottom of cramps!
Period pain comes in many different forms for each person, and one of those is painful muscle cramps around the abdomen area. Sometimes these cramps can spread to other places too, like the lower back, thighs, and butt. Sometimes it will be felt as a sharp, intense spasm, at other times, a dull ache that can last for days.
If you’re wondering what’s happening inside, the menstrual cycle causes hormones, such as prostaglandins, to trigger the uterus to contract just like any other muscle in our body, and shed its uterine lining if no fertilised eggs have arrived to implant. This process can be uncomfortable and cause varying levels of pain for each person.
To top it off, while we’re aching from all the uterus cramping, we can also experience things like constipation, bloating, headaches, diarrhea and more. It’s really a fun time. Whether you feel a sharp, poking pain, a mild stomach ache, or a throbbing discomfort in the bottom half of your body, it’s usually very normal and - though unpleasant - can be made better with a few at-home remedies.
It doesn’t. It’s all normal and part of your monthly cycle, but in some cases cramps can become so painful they prevent people from leaving the house, or going about their daily life. Painful periods may be primary, i.e. there is no underlying problem, it’s just how your body reacts to the hormones. However, they may also be secondary, meaning there could be something else going on to cause your symptoms that your doctor can help with, such as endometriosis, fibroids, or an STI (sexually transmitted infection).
So if you have cramps that worsen after the first few days of your period, or if you start experiencing intense cramps for the first time after the age of 25, check in with your doctor. They may wish to do a pelvic exam to figure out what’s going on in there, but this is nothing to worry about.
Now for some remedies! Most people know that painkillers or switching to hormonal birth control can lessen period symptoms for some people, and can be helpful. But if you’d rather start by making lifestyle changes and trying some at-home coping strategies, here are a few:
Good question! With so many different symptoms, intensities and durations of periods, plus the fact that everyone experiences different levels of pain, not all of the above advice will work for you. Figuring out your own personal cycle is the key to discovering what your body responds to long term, and the best way to do this is often a period tracker or period diary.
Start noting down your symptoms each day to find out when your cramps are at their worst, then implement some of the changes above and record the ones that seem to be working, as well as those that don’t. Eventually you will start to see patterns emerge, and when you find a solution that positively affects your cramps, you can proactively use this as a method of pain management going forward.
Do you get intense period cramps? Keen to know more about our new supplements coming up? Reach out in our private Facebook group or drop us a note on Insta @itsyoppie. Don't forget that our personalised period subscription box can get organic tampons (and much more, soon including PMS supplements!) delivered easily and regularly through your letterbox - that'll take a bit of that stress off your plate.
1. Sharghi M, Mansurkhani SM, Ashtary-Larky D, et al. An update and systematic review on the treatment of primary dysmenorrhea. JBRA Assist Reprod 2019; 23: 51–57.
2. Id MA, Parry K, Al-Dabbas MA, et al. Self-care strategies and sources of knowledge on menstruation in 12,526 young women with dysmenorrhea: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Epub ahead of print 2019. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0220103.
3. Pakniat H, Chegini V, Ranjkesh F, et al. Comparison of the effect of vitamin E, vitamin D and ginger on the severity of primary dysmenorrhea: a single-blind clinical trial. Obstet Gynecol Sci 2019; 62: 462.
4. Qin L-L, 1 ID, Hu Z, et al. Association between cigarette smoking and the risk of dysmenorrhea: A meta-analysis of observational studies. Epub ahead of print 2020. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0231201.
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