Painful menstrual cramps (dysmenorrhea) can occur during or just before your period. The cramping can involve your lower belly, back, or thighs. And the pain from these cramps can range from mild to severe.
Primary dysmenorrhea is a term used to describe painful menstrual cramping that isn't caused by a medical problem. It often starts during the teen years, when periods first start. But the pain often improves as you get older. Secondary dysmenorrhea is a term used to describe painful menstrual cramping caused by a medical problem, such as endometriosis, uterine polyps or fibroids, or pelvic infection. Menstrual-type cramps also may occur after a medical procedure, such as cautery, cryotherapy, or IUD insertion.
You may have painful menstrual cramps (dysmenorrhea) from time to time. Menstrual cramps can occur during or just before your period. The pain from these cramps can range from mild to severe. It can involve the lower belly, back, or thighs. You may also have headaches, nausea, dizziness, fainting, diarrhea, or constipation with your cramps.
During the menstrual cycle, the lining of the uterus produces a hormone called prostaglandin. This hormone causes the uterus to contract, often with pain. If you have severe cramps, you may be producing higher-than-normal amounts of prostaglandin. Or you may be more sensitive to its effects.
Treating menstrual cramps
Here are some things you can try to help manage your menstrual cramps.
- Use heat. Heat, such as hot water bottles, heating pads, or hot baths, can relax tense muscles and relieve cramping. Be careful not to burn yourself.
- Drink tea. Herbal teas, such as chamomile, mint, raspberry, and blackberry, may help soothe tense muscles and anxious moods.
- Try exercise. Regular workouts decrease how bad cramps are.
- Empty your bladder. Urinate as soon as you feel the urge.
Using home treatments to ease painful menstrual cramps
It's common to have painful cramps from your period now and then. But you can usually ease cramps with home treatment. Here are some things you can try.
- Apply heat to your belly.
- Use a heating pad (set on low) or a hot water bottle on your belly or take a warm bath. You might find that heat relieves the pain as well as medicine does.
- Don't go to sleep with a heating pad on your skin. Put a thin cloth between the heating pad and your skin,
- Relieve pressure on your back.
- Lie down and put a pillow under your knees. Or lie on your side and bring your knees up to your chest.
- Get regular exercise. It helps blood flow and may reduce cramping.
How are prescription medicines used to treat painful menstrual cramps?
Prescription medicine is a good choice if over-the-counter medicine doesn't relieve your painful menstrual cramps. Birth control hormones can help relieve menstrual pain and lighten bleeding. They also prevent pregnancy.