How to Manage Menstrual Cramps

There are a lot of women who don’t look forward to their monthly period. Although some over-the-counter painkillers can help alleviate the pain, they don’t completely eliminate the discomfort of the experience. This is why some girls choose to skip work or school. So what causes menstrual cramps and how do you eliminate the pain?

What causes the pain?
Dysmenorrhea is the name for painful or difficult periods. There are two types, primary and secondary dysmenorrhea. Primary dysmenorrhea is the most common form which affects the lower back and lower belly. Secondary dysmenorrhea is caused by medical conditions such as pelvic diseases and endometriosis.

The pain is caused by the contractions of the uterus. The uterus is a muscle which contracts to discharge the lining of the uterus or endometrium that has built up but not used. The compounds called prostaglandins are released to make the uterus contract. Strong contractions disrupt blood flow in the endometrium so that it breaks down and is squeezed through the cervix. That’s when you feel the pain. These contractions are affected by the level of the prostaglandins. It can cause nausea, vomiting, light-headedness, diarrhea or constipation, and bloating.

What are the tests done?
If the pain lasts for more than three day or there are other symptoms besides those listed above or if the pain is persistent, the physician will do several tests to determine the cause.
The areas including your abdomen, cervix, uterus, fallopian tubes and vagina will be examined. The tests include an ultrasound, MRI, CT scan, laparoscopy, and hysteroscopy. These tests will determine if you have any of the following: ovarian cysts, pelvic inflammatory disease, cervical stenosis, adenomyosis, endometriosis, uterine fibroids, ectopic pregnancy, or adhesions.

Is there a relief for dysmenorrhea?
If you have painful menstruation, you should visit the doctor to eliminate other possible causes. The doctor will also recommend medication to relieve the pain. Most over-the-counter medications with ibuprofen or naproxen sodium will work as anti-prostaglandins. The pain reliever should be taken as soon as the pain starts because there are times that you won’t feel its effects if taken too late. Some women are prescribed to take birth control pills too which sometimes work to lessen the pain before the period.

You should rest at home if the cramps are bad. Lie down and place a heating pad on your lower belly. Others also find relief in taking short warm baths, massage or exercise. Don’t wear tight clothes because you might also feel pain around the hips, inner thighs and lower back. Avoid eating or drinking anything with high salt or caffeine content. Avoid alcohol and smoking too.

Sometimes having a regular exercise routine before your period can reduce the pain. Besides those mentioned above, alternative treatments to painful menstruation may also be recommended such as yoga and acupuncture.