Menstruation/Periods take place when the uterus sheds its inner lining, which leads to a discharge of blood and mucosal tissue(menses) from the vagina. Periods are a sign of approaching the end of puberty. Most girls get their periods between 12-15 years of age. Menstruation comes with some amount of pain, cramps, and discomfort. Menstrual pain occurs in the lower abdomen and can spread towards the backside of the body. However, excruciating pain that inhibits one to work is abnormal and needs medical advice. Painful periods are also termed dysmenorrhea. There are two types of dysmenorrhea. The primary type is when the pain starts before the periods and continues all through it. The secondary type is when regular periods gradually become painful, probably due to conditions like endometriosis or uterine fibroids.
Causes of Period Pain
Cramps during menstruation often do not have a definitive cause, and the pain that different people experience is of varying degrees. Apart from pre-existing medical conditions, habits like smoking increase period pain, and sometimes having a family history of painful menstruation or irregular periods can also cause significant cramping. However, there are a few underlying medical causes for period pain. These are:
- Premenstrual Syndrome- This is a condition that takes place because of hormonal changes that occur in the body, usually a couple of weeks before the periods begin. Symptoms of this syndrome go away as soon as the bleeding starts.
- Endometriosis- It happens when cells of the uterus lining start growing on the fallopian tubes, or ovaries or some other part near the tissues of the pelvis.
- Fibroids- These are noncancerous tumors. In some cases, they form in the uterus and put pressure on it. They usually do not show any symptoms but can cause abnormal periods and excessive pain.
- Pelvic Inflammatory Disease- This is a general infection caused to the reproductive organs, due to bacteria that is sexually transmitted.
- Adenomyosis- This is a peculiar condition in which the uterus lining starts growing on the thick wall of the uterus. It causes piercing pain as a result of pressure and inflammation on the uterus wall.
- Cervical Stenosis- This is another unusual condition causing abnormal menstrual pain. It happens when the cervix is too small to allow a smooth normal flow of bleeding. Instead, it is slow and restrained, amounting to pressure being created inside the uterus.
Home Remedies for Menstrual pain
For mild menstrual pain that lasts for only the initial days, some home remedies can be adopted. Some are discussed below:
- Over-the-counter medicines like ibuprofen and naproxen can help in alleviating period pain. These medicines generate prostaglandin, which reduces pain.
- Applying heat with the help of hot water bags or fomentation near the lower back and abdomen can reduce the period of pain.
- Massaging for around 20 minutes on certain spots near the abdomen can help in reducing pain. Sometimes essential oils like grapeseed and sweet almond are used for the massage.
- Vaginal orgasms cause the release of neurotransmitters like endorphins and oxytocin from the brain. It helps in reducing the pain sensation.
- If you want to have painless periods, it is better to avoid certain food items like fatty foods, alcohol, caffeine, etc. Instead, it is advisable to take some ginger/mint tea, or some hot water with lemon during this time.
- Adding some herbs to the diet can help in reducing tension inside the uterus or swelling, which is the leading cause of painful periods. Chamomile tea, ginger, fennel seeds, cinnamon are some ingredients that you can consider.
When to Call a Doctor?
Every woman is well aware of the degree of pain that is normal for them. Anything that goes beyond that limit should be immediately reported to a doctor. The pain might inhibit your daily activities, in which case also you should call the doctor. Another reason to worry might be when severe pain is accompanied by heavy bleeding. Menstrual pain that continues over 2-3 days requires immediate medical attention. A pelvic examination is often considered by doctors to find the cause of the pain.
Importance of Exercise during Menstrual Pain
A common misconception is that exercises should be avoided during periods. However, it is also essential to know that exercises generate endorphins, which reduces cramps and spasms. Research confirms that proper exercises can often eliminate period pains without any medication. Simple activities like walking or stretching the body according to suitable yoga positions can significantly alleviate the pain.
What can I Do to Relieve Menstrual Pain?
- Stay Hydrated- It is vital to drink lots of water during your periods. Increasing your fluid consumption will help in reducing bloating. Apart from plain water, lime juice, fruit juice, tea (without caffeine) can be taken as well.
- Proper Diet- Even though fatty foods and salty items need to be avoided, it is essential to eat the right things in your meals. Food items like blueberries, tomatoes, beans, and almonds are anti-inflammatory, which helps in reducing the pain.
- Take Fennel Seeds- Consumption of fennel seeds four times a day for 2-3 days before periods start has shown excellent results in some women. Some researchers have said that fennel reduces the contractions that take place in the uterus, thus reducing the cramps.
- Fish Oil & Vitamin B1- Medical researches has shown that women who have consumed these for at least two menstrual cycles have experienced a lesser painful sensation.
- Vitamin D from Sunshine- Sometimes, painful menses are a cause of contractions that take place due to the production of prostaglandins. Intake of Vitamin D from sunlight or capsules can stagnate the generation of prostaglandins and help in pain reduction.
- Intake Calcium & Magnesium- Women often suffer from a calcium deficiency. Adequate amounts of calcium can relieve period cramps. Try to consume more and more calcium-rich food to have painless menstruation. Additionally, the intake of magnesium supplements also reduces symptoms of PMS. For better results, magnesium capsules should be taken along with Vitamin B6.
Apart from the effectiveness of dietary supplements and medicines, researchers have seen that women who are involved in some physical activity have reduced menstrual pain. It is thus essential to have some exercise as part of your daily routine and also always include green vegetables as part of the diet. If home remedies do not work and the pain becomes unbearable after a point, immediate medical help is required. Even though a common phenomenon, abnormal period pains need proper medical attention and should not be neglected.