- Women's Health
How can I reduce bad and severe period pains and cramps?
I have written this article as a follow up to my earlier article called 'Severe Period Cramps and Bad Period Pains? Why You Should See Your Doctor'. The reason for this is that so many of the comments in my other article focus on people desperately looking for help to solve their period pains. Many of these women are at the end of their tether and have no idea what else they can do to ease the terrible period cramps (dysmenorrhea) they are having to endure most, (if not all) months.
Now my other article largely focuses on probable medical causes for severe period pain, and why these really should be looked into by a Doctor, e.g. Endometriosis and Ovarian Cysts, but before you assume those might be the cause of the extreme period pain, what can you do to try to reduce the period pains to bearable levels that don't leave you doubled up in agony, vomiting, or passing out, most months?
Firstly I would like to point out that few things you can do will completely remove any discomfort or pain caused by period cramps. At best you might be able to reduce the pain to a level that allows you to function in the workplace, school or at home for the duration the cramping lasts. It is also a mistake to assume that swallowing as many painkillers as you can is the answer, and that if they fail to work there must be a serious medical problem that needs an appointment at A&E. You first need to understand that period cramps are just that 'cramps', and a painkiller alone is fighting a losing battle because at best it can only smother or hide the pain, not remove the cause of it.
I have been answering comments on my first article for several years now, and I suppose it has become a slight frustration to me that I get the same comments daily, and that clearly the commenter in each case has failed to read any of the preceding comments to their own. Usually these comments do take the form of young women begging for help and describing the extent of their pain, and how painkillers of various kinds do not make any difference to their agony.
I naturally want people who have tried all the obvious methods to reduce their period pains, to then go down the routes I suggest in my other article. This is because of what I went through for many years as a result of my own Doctors failing to even suggest further investigations after my enduring years of pain that could have been largely avoided if they had not made the mistake of simply taking my condition at 'face value' (not to mention that the results of the ultimate investigations largely explained my infertility and how surgery could have allowed me to have a baby if I had known earlier what was really happening inside my body).
......there are always going to be many women who simply suffer from bad period cramps and severe period pain, and have no underlying problems such as I had. Any woman suffering from severe period pains should always explore all the obvious solutions before assuming her problem is as serious as mine was, or even worse! In most cases it will most likely be a problem with pain alone, and for young girls new to periods and the associated pains this can be really scary. It is worth noting that many women report the most severe period pains they experienced were in the early years of their periods, and these settled down as their bodies matured.
So, to go to the solutions all women should explore when suffering from period pains, especially those new to periods and the period cramps they are experiencing. These solutions should be tried before rushing off to a Doctor insisting on further investigations, and I urge you to give these a try before worrying or panicking about the level of pain you are going through.
Herbal and dietary therapies for endometriosis, PMS and Period pain are explained in detail by Dr Margaret Taylor in the book ‘Endometriosis and other pelvic pain’. Dr Taylor is a GP who has worked for 20 years combining herbal and dietary therapies with conventional medicine.
Period Pains and Cramps Solutions List
1) Probably the one I mention the most in my other Hubpage article. This is the one thing that saved me from the worst of the agonising pains, and whilst only being available on prescription, Doctors will normally put at least six months worth on one prescription. This is the tablet Mefenamic Acid 500mg, an anti cramp medication that actually stops the cramps, and therefore the actual cause of the pain. So many young women on my other article plead with me for help, whilst quoting various tablets they have tried for pain, all of which are painkillers!!! Painkillers are generally fighting a losing battle when it comes to really bad period pains, and it is a bit like trying to put out a fire with a napkin. I have mentioned Mefenamic Acid loads of times as a result of this.
2) Warm baths. A warm bath really does ease the pains associated with your period. It somehow seems to relax all the relevant painful areas in a way a shower simply can't. Take some time to run a nice bath, preferably scented with some essential oils like lavender, and then put aside a good hour to relax and soak.
3) Lavender or Clary Sage essential oils. Again I highly recommend Lavender or Clary Sage oils (these must be 'pure essential oils' if they are to work). Gently massage a small amount on to the painful areas and leave them for your skin to absorb. Lavender and Clary Sage oils are natural painkillers, but Lavender is also a natural sedative so should help you to sleep better in spite of the discomfort.
4) A hot water bottle. Hot water bottles are a Godsend when it comes to period pains. Of course these days they don't have to contain water, and microwavable 'bottles' full of cereal products are just as effective. A hot water bottle held against the abdomen can definitely ease the pain.
5) Evening Primrose Oil. Many women swear by Evening Primrose Oil as a cure for their period pains. I personally cannot say I have ever tried it, but cannot dismiss the fact that many have and many say it works well. Probably easiest to take in a capsule form, as well as being easily available from chemists or pharmacies and health food shops.
6) The Pill. Assuming you aren't trying for a baby the pill can help with period pains by regulating your hormones.
7) Lying in a fetal position with your knees tucked up against your chest can ease the pain caused by period cramps.
8) Mild exercise can help, although that will probably be the last thing you feel like doing. Gentle exercise like walking and swimming will improve the blood supply and should therefore help the cramps to decrease.
9) Acupuncture. Many women swear by this for alleviating period pains. Certainly you have nothing to lose by giving it a try as it has proven to be an effective painkiller for all kinds of painful conditions.
10) Alcohol. A glass or two of your favourite tipple can help to relax you (also thinning the blood), and therefore the cramping tissues will relax too. Give this a try, especially before bed as additionally it will help to get you off to sleep.
11) Massage. Probably more relaxing if someone else does the massaging for you. Concentrate on the lower back and abdomen to ease the pain.
12) Painkillers. I do recommend these in conjunction with other treatments such as Mefenamic Acid tablets, but I also feel the two work best when used together. Painkillers alone rarely solve severe period cramps, probably because it is quite simply asking too much of them.
13) Adjust your diet to include plenty of foods high in zinc, calcium and B vitamins. These should reduce the level of bloating and alleviate the cramps.
14) Avoid caffeine, alcohol and tobacco, (yes I know I said before to try a glass of your favourite tipple to ease the pains, but everyone is different, so in some cases alcohol can help and in others it will make the problem worse. You have to do what works for you).
15) Try meditation to control the pain and mentally 'switch it off'. In other words 'talk to your brain and tell it what to do'.
16) Eat plenty of Bananas for their Vitamin B6 content.
17) Eat fresh Pineapples for their bromelain content, (bromelain is an enzyme thought to help relax muscles and therefore possibly help with menstrual cramps).
18) Keep your fluid intake up and drink plenty of water (approx 2 litres per day).
19) Drink herbal teas, of which there are many to choose from. Popular choices include Chamomile, Valerian, Raspberry leaf, Peppermint, Hibiscus (Red Tea) and Red Raspberry.
20) Avoid tampons and try to use sanitary towels instead. This avoids pressure being placed on the cervix as the tampon swells up.
21) Invest in some Magnesium tablets from your local health food shop. The correct dose is between 100 and 200mg taken every 2 hours, but for no longer than 2 days. Magnesium is sold in health food shops as magnesium chelate. 500mg of magnesium chelate contains 100mg of magnesium. You can ingest magnesium through your diet too by eating more green vegetables, nuts, seeds and wholegrain foods.
22) Vitamin E is also very helpful if taken for a couple of days prior to your period starting, and then for the first few days after the period actually arrives. Apparently it is especially effective for teenagers with painful periods. It may also make your periods lighter than normal in some cases. The correct dose is 400-500 iu of natural Vitamin E taken daily.
23) Zinc (mentioned earlier) can also be taken in tablet form. Do not exceed the recommended dosage though as if you do it can prevent your body absorbing copper, manganese and molybdenum in food, and cause nausea, stomach irritation and fatigue. The recommended dose for period pain is around 40mg of zinc daily for the initial month, then a lower dose of 20mg of zinc daily if it is going to be used on a long term basis. Zinc in tablets can be labelled in different ways, essentially you will want either 220mg of ‘zinc chelate’ twice a day or 20mg of zinc (as chelate) twice a day, this will be made clear on the packaging though, so always double check before you take them.
24) Chasteberry (Vitax Agnus Castus) also helps period pain by increasing the effect of progesterone from the ovary. Apparently it is less likely to be effective if you are on the contraceptive pill as well. The correct does is 1000mg taken each morning. Do not use this if you suspect you may be pregnant.
25) Pernaton Gel is made from New Zealand green lipped mussels and is a wonderful pain reliever for all sorts of different pains. The reviews on this product are amazing, and it is used extensively by people awaiting joint replacements, suffering from Fibromyalgia, neck pains, arthritis etc. I would strongly suggest you give this a try, as although it isn't a cheap product, a little goes a very long way.
26) Iron Tablets. (Thanks to visitor Lyn for this tip). Most women suffer from anaemia which causes large clots and increased total blood volume. This in turn increases pressure on the cervix. Taking iron, (especially during your period) normalises flow so there are no clots and you therefore have a lighter period with no pain as a result. This may help some who have heavy bleeding, and Lyn found it especially helpful during her menopause for controlling her level of tiredness
If this article hasn't helped...
If this article still hasn't helped to bring your period pains and period cramps under control, and you have tried Mefenamic Acid tablets from your Doctor to no avail, then you really need to read my original article and go to the next level by making sure your Doctor investigates your problems further. You can read my original article if you go to:
Additional Research Sources Used
- Endometriosis Care Centre of Australia - Herbal and Dietary Treatment for Period Pain
Dr Margaret Taylor is a General Practitioner and specialist in nutritional and herbal medicine. Her book is also available in the capsule to the right of this link.