6 Easy Ways to Fight Menstrual Cramps

Dysmenorrhea affects more than half of all menstruating women. You likely know it as menstrual cramps — that monthly aching feeling in the lower abdomen. It can sometimes be felt in the back, thighs and hips. Some women notice symptoms so severe they interfere with their normal activities for a few days.

Women more likely to get cramps are younger than 30 or have never given birth.

What Causes Cramps?

Menstrual cramps result from involuntary muscle contractions. The muscle that tightens is your uterus, or womb. It contracts to expel its lining each month as part of your period. If the uterine contractions are strong, the uterus can press against blood vessels and cut off its blood flow. The reduced blood flow causes the cramping and pain.

The discomfort can be compared to the pain caused by heart disease when blood flow to the heart is reduced.

Your health care clinician can diagnose if you have an underlying cause for cramps such as:

  • Uterine fibroids — More than 20 percent of women will develop fibroids by age 50. Fibroids are noncancerous growths in the wall of the uterus.
  • Adenomyosis — About 20 percent of women will be diagnosed with this condition. The uterus lining starts to grow into the muscular walls of the uterus.
  • Endometriosis — This painful condition affects about 11 percent of women age 15 to 44. The tissue that lines the uterus becomes implanted outside the uterus. It commonly attaches to the fallopian tubes or ovaries.

These conditions can be addressed by clinicians who specialize in women’s health and maternity services.

 

How Can You Reduce the Pain of Cramps?

We have some steps you can take to prepare for your period and reduce the discomfort. If you have mild cramps:

  1. Drink lots of water.
  2. Eat a balanced diet with whole grains, veggies and fruit.
  3. Skip alcohol and smoking.
  4. Exercise regularly. (Boosting your fitness is good for your overall health!)
  5. Take an over-the-counter pain reliever such as aspirin, acetaminophen, ibuprofen or naproxen. Get the most relief by taking the medication as soon as bleeding or cramps start.
  6. Apply a heating pad or hot-water bottle. A warm bath can also help.

 

If, after taking these steps, you still have pain that affects your routine or that lasts more than a few days, see your health care clinician. Before your visit, keep track of your symptoms. Note when they start and end. Track how severe they are. Give your clinician specifics. That will help her or him make an accurate diagnosis and recommend the best treatment plan for you.

Have you tried our tips and still have bad cramps? We can help. Find a women’s health care specialist near you.

Meet the Author

Crystal D. Ruffin, MD is an obstetrician and gynecologist at Aurora Medical Center in Kenosha.

Read more posts from this author

The information presented in this site is intended for general information and educational purposes. It is not intended to replace the advice of your own physician. Contact your physician if you believe you have a health problem.

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