Getting your monthly period is always a real pain – often literally. Most women experience at least some pain, and for some, it can be severe. These cramps that are felt in the lower abdomen and back occur when the uterus contracts to shed uterine lining during your cycle and presses on surrounding blood vessels. The oxygen loss to the area causes cramping. There are also hormones at play that can change the experience depending on the woman and if she’s taking birth control pills. Dysmenorrhea is the official term for period cramps, and there is help out there to lessen the sometimes overwhelming experience.
Dysmenorrhea tends to lessen with age, but this isn’t always the case, as many women in their 30s and 40s know. Symptoms include:
- Aching pain, soreness, and pressure in the lower abdomen
- Lower back pain
- Pain in the hips or thighs
- Upset stomach and vomiting
- Loose stools
The experience of some or many of these can also wear you out and cause fatigue. Mild symptoms can see relief with the use of a pain reliever like aspirin, ibuprofen, or acetaminophen.
Your local pharmacy may also provide help with the creation of customized medications through pharmaceutical compounding. These formulations are made to suit the individual with the right dosage and seeks to reduce side effects. Compounding, in general, can change the size, format, flavour, and other enhancements to make prescriptions easier to take, especially for children and pets. Pharmacists can work with your doctor to develop a pain management program for period or other chronic pain issues. You can learn more at MEDS Pharmacy Group about customized pain treatment.
Other methods to help manage period cramps include:
- Applying heat. Use a hot water bottle or heating pad and place it on the lower tummy or back area. Soaking in a warm bath can also help.
- Rest or lie down. Some women find keeping busy helps, while others have pain so severe that sleeping through it is a necessity.
- Avoid foods high in sodium. Bloating and water retention is increased with the presence of salt, so choose healthier snacks and homemade food for meals.
- Don’t smoke or drink alcohol.
- Massage the back or stomach area.
- Exercise regularly. Increased levels of fitness decrease menstrual cramping and pain. Exercising while on your period may not be what you feel like doing, but it can provide some relief. A raised heart rate and the release of endorphins during physical activity provides pain relief.
- Stretching can provide relief. For some, doing a lighter yoga routine or some simple stretches can lessen cramps
- Women taking birth control pills experience less pain. Prostaglandins and cramps are decreased from the lack of build up of endometrial tissue
If your symptoms are severe and last for days, it’s important to speak to your doctor. There could be an issue with your reproductive organs that goes beyond period cramps. This could include endometriosis (the tissue lining the uterus has extended into the areas around it), pelvic inflammatory disease, fibrosis, or a narrowing of the cervix.
An appointment to investigate and diagnose the problem may involve a pelvic exam, sampling of fluid and tissue, and questions about your symptoms and lifestyle.