Period cramps are involuntary muscle contractions that occur in the uterus during menstruation. If your uterine contractions are strong, the uterus may press against blood vessels and deprive the uterus of blood and oxygen. The reduced flow of blood and oxygen causes cramping.
Ever wondered why you get bad period cramps and your friends don’t?
Some women experience menstrual cramps so painful that they are unable to continue with daily activities. The medical term for severe cramps during a period is dysmenorrhea. If you’re under the age of 30, smoke or have never given birth, you may be at higher risk for dysmenorrhea.
Fortunately, dysmenorrhea can be minimized. Dr. Crystal Ruffin of Aurora Medical Center in Kenosha offers these helpful tips to reduce painful menstrual cramps:
1. Take a hot bath: Menstrual cramps occur in the lower abdomen, pelvis or back. Using a heating pad or hot water bottle on these areas can help ease pain and discomfort. Additionally, a hot bath is a great way to relieve stress and loosen tense muscles.
2. Hit the gym: It might be the last thing you feel like doing, but exercise can actually help with cramps. The right type of exercise is a great way to relax your muscles and reduce menstrual pain. Brisk walking, swimming, yoga and light aerobics are low-impact forms of exercise that can help relieve discomfort and also provide an endorphin rush.
3. Medicine: If heating pads and exercise do not help diminish cramps, relief may be found with over-the-counter pain medication. Options like ibuprofen and acetaminophen are readily accessible and are proven to reduce period pain.
4. Ask your OBGYN about birth control: If over-the-counter medication doesn’t work, birth control may be the answer. Birth control that contains estrogen and progestin helps regulate menstrual periods and subsequently decreases menstrual cramps. It’s important to note that while most women have few problems taking birth control, some do experience side effects. Find the birth control that’s right for you by asking your health care provider.
5. Try acupressure: Also known as pressure point therapy, acupressure is the method of applying force to specific points on the body. Acupressure for menstrual pain is most beneficial when used on the abdomen, back and legs. If you’re interested in trying acupressure, here’s an easy method to follow:
- Place your hands on your pubic bone.
- Move your hands a half inch to each side.
- Apply pressure with your index finger for up to one minute.
6. Eat anti-inflammatory foods: If your diet is packed with anti-inflammatory foods, this may help decrease painful cramps. Here are a few of the best foods you can consume during your time of the month:
- Green tea
- Whole grains
When should you see a doctor?
If your menstrual cramps are affecting your daily routine or last more than three days, you should see your health care clinician. If possible, try to keep track of your symptoms, including when they start/end and how severe they are. This will help your clinician make an accurate diagnosis and recommend the best treatment plan for you.