Menstrual Cramps 101: Soothing Period Pains

Menstrual Cramps 101: Soothing Period Pains

Written by Yoppie

01 Feb 2021

What even are period cramps?

Why does my body hate me? WHY?!

What can I do about period cramps? 

How do I find out what helps me? 

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!

What even are period 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. 

Why does my body hate me? WHY?!

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. 

What can I do about period cramps? 

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: 

  • Exercise regularly: Sitting on the sofa all day is fine too, but you will likely find that some light physical activity can ease menstrual cramps. Try a long walk or gentle jog. If you’re feeling up to it though, don’t be afraid to work out - there’s no reason you can’t work out as normal if you don’t overexert yourself.  
  • Heat it up: Heat tends to help make menstrual cramps feel better. Soak in a warm bath, or use a hot water bottle on your abdomen to soothe the pain. 
  • Try dietary supplements: Studies suggest vitamin E, omega-3 fatty acids, magnesium supplements and more, could reduce cramps. Yoppie even has our own range designed to do just that!
  • Reduce stress: Easier said than done! Emotional/psychological stress can increase the severity of menstrual cramps, so do what you can to relax, unwind and de-stress. 
  • Move and massage: A little yoga can go a long way - this video shares some great postures for easing period cramps. Some people also find comfort in massaging the abdomen lightly, or other therapies like reflexology
  • Change your diet: All that junk food that makes you feel better mentally in the short term, isn’t helping you physically. Avoid foods that may upset your stomach alongside cramps, like spicy foods, caffeine-rich drinks, lactose, greasy foods, salt, alcohol, and more. Instead, try mint or ginger tea and drink lots of water to feel better.  
  • Have sex: Or masturbate. Studies actually show that having an orgasm can help offer some relief for period pain and cramps. Oh go on then...
  • Quit smoking: Research suggests that those who smoke more could be at risk of worse period cramps, so try cutting back to feel the benefits each month. 

How do I find out what helps me? 

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.

Menstrual Health Expert Approved

References

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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