Period cramps are quite common. Even if they last for a few days, they can cause a lot of discomfort. Let us tell you the ways to get rid of period cramps.

Dysmenorrhea is a term used to describe painful cramps in the lower abdomen that women experience shortly before or at the onset of menstruation. Menstrual cramps are primarily caused by the production of prostaglandins, which are hormone-like substances. The severity of the pain varies, so some may continue working or doing daily activities without feeling much pain. Others may have to take the help of a heating pad or medicines or massages to get some relief from period cramps. Watching what you eat and drink is also important if you do not want to endure the pain throughout your menstrual cycle. Here’s how to get rid of period cramps.

What are period cramps?

Period cramps, also known as menstrual cramps or dysmenorrhea, are painful sensations that affect many women before and during their periods. The pain is typically felt in the lower abdomen, but can also radiate to the lower back and thighs, says gynaecologist Dr Chetna Jain. The cramps are caused by the contraction of the uterus as it sheds its lining, which is a normal part of the menstrual cycle. The causes of period cramps can be varied. They are mostly caused by the natural production of prostaglandins, which prompt uterine contractions.

A woman having period cramps
Period cramps are pretty common. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

However, several other conditions can exacerbate or mimic the pain of period cramps. Some of them are:

  • Endometriosis, where tissue similar to the uterine lining grows outside the uterus and causes pain.
  • Uterine fibroids, which are benign growths in the uterus and lead to heavy bleeding and severe cramps.
  • Adenomyosis, which is the growth of uterine lining tissue into the muscular wall of the uterus.
  • Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), an infection of the female reproductive organs.
  • Cervical stenosis, a condition where the cervical opening is unusually small, can restrict menstrual flow, causing increased pain.

What are the ways to get rid of period cramps?

There are numerous ways to manage and alleviate period cramps.

1. Heat application

Keeping a heating pad or hot water bottle on your lower abdomen can relax the uterine muscles and reduce cramping, says the expert. Taking a
warm bath is also an effective way to reduce the pain.

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2. Stay hydrated

Drinking water can help prevent bloating and alleviate period cramps. Warm water is particularly effective, as it increases blood flow to the skin and may relax muscle cramps. You can also have herbal teas like chamomile, ginger, or peppermint, as they can reduce muscle spasms and provide a calming effect.

3. Exercise more

Light physical activities like walking, swimming, or yoga can help increase blood flow and reduce the severity of period cramps. Endorphins get released during exercise, and they act as natural painkillers, says Dr Jain.

4. Follow a healthy diet

Certain nutrients found in fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds, such as omega-3 fatty acids, magnesium, and vitamin E, play crucial roles in hormone regulation and balance. Hormonal imbalances, particularly fluctuations in estrogen and progesterone levels, can contribute to menstrual irregularities and exacerbate period pain. By providing essential nutrients for hormone synthesis and metabolism, these foods help support hormonal balance and reduce menstrual discomfort.

5. Acupuncture can be effective

Acupuncture may be used as a safe and effective treatment for women with dysmenorrhea, according to a 2018 study published in the Medicine Journal. This traditional Chinese medicine technique can help balance the body’s energy and reduce pain through the insertion of thin needles at specific points on the body.

6. Try magnesium supplements

Magnesium can help relax muscles and reduce period pain. It can be taken as a supplement or you can go for foods like spinach, almonds, and avocados. Before including magnesium supplements in your diet, check with a doctor.

7. Massage can help

Gently massage your lower abdomen to help increase blood flow and reduce muscle tension, says the expert. You can apply a small amount of oil or lotion to your lower abdomen and massage it to help reduce friction. Choose a gentle, non-irritating oil or lotion, such as coconut oil or unscented moisturiser.

8. Manage stress

Techniques such as deep breathing, and meditation, can help reduce stress and tension, potentially alleviating menstrual cramps. Stress triggers the body’s “fight or flight” response, leading to the release of stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline. These hormones can cause muscles to tense up, including the muscles of the uterus. Increased tension in the uterine muscles can make period pain worse.

9. Take painkillers

Anti-inflammatory painkillers, especially ibuprofen and naproxen, can be taken to relieve period pain, according to researchers at the Cochrane Collaboration. These medications are non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs that inhibit the prostaglandins’ production and so, they can relieve period pain. But do not take these on your own. They have to be taken under the supervision of a gynaecologist. These medicines can cause acidity or even damage kidneys and liver if taken for long periods, says Dr Jain.

A woman having period cramps
Sleeping position matters when it comes to period cramps. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

10. Mind your sleeping position

When you sleep, lie on your back to reduce pressure on your abdomen and improve cramping symptoms. This sleeping position can also reduce back pain, according to research published in BMJ Open in 2019. Lower back pain is often associated with period cramps.

When to see a doctor?

While period cramps are common, it is essential to consult a doctor if –

  • The pain is debilitating and interferes with daily activities.
  • Over-the-counter pain relievers are ineffective.
  • Accompanied by other symptoms such as heavy bleeding, irregular periods, unusual vaginal discharge, and fever.
  • There is persistent pelvic pain outside of your menstrual cycle.

Period cramps are common, and you can try various methods to get relief from the pain. But there may be times when you may need medical consultation.

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