Which woman hasn’t experienced the dull throb that signals the onset of her period? That little tummy ache that crescendos into spirals of pain for hours, sometimes a whole day. Women all over the world have been victims of period pain for centuries.
The pain scales range from minor annoyance to debilitating agony. And it may not even be the same every time. You may have a practically pain-free period one month only to be bed-ridden the next. But this discrepancy implies that period pain is not a given, that there are reasons it is there, and that you can do something about it.
Before we get into how you can lessen pain during your period, let’s take a look at the reasons this happens in the first place. Understanding a problem is the first step in finding a solution.
What Causes Pain during Period / Menstruation cramps?
Prostaglandins have long been blamed for menstrual cramps. This hormone is released when the body is preparing to break down the extra lining of the uterine wall. Prostaglandins are a trigger for contractions. It signals the muscles in the womb to push outward through the vagina. This explains the feeling of fullness and bloating experienced by millions of women.
Not all women will experience similar levels of pain. Women whose bodies produce have higher levels of prostaglandins will obviously experience more pain.
While most researchers and doctors will stand by this theory, they still remain unsure of the real reason for period pain.
Alternative health therapies like Ayurveda or homeopathy treat the body as a holistic organism and thus do not believe that period pain is caused only by prostaglandins, although they do not deny its role. They believe that the pain is caused by mental and physical stress, and unhealthy habits that do not provide the body with what it needs to take care of itself.
Symptoms of Period Pain
Period pain does not occur only in the lower abdomen. There may be discomfort in the back, and legs. Headaches, nausea and diarrhea are also common. Some women experience a heightened level of sensitivity and can feel old wounds, especially if they were serious like a fracture.
The level of pain will differ from woman to woman. And it may even vary in the same woman from period to period. You might be able to go through a period with a smile, only to be doubled over in pain the next time around. As mentioned earlier, there are several factors that are responsible for this discrepancy. In the next section, we’ll take a look at which factors you can change so as to prevent a painful period.
Remedies for Period Pain
There is no cure for period pain. But thankfully, there are ways to find relief. You will have to experiment with the following tips to find out which one works best for you.
- The most obvious way to kill the pain is to take a painkiller or a muscle relaxant. However, this should really not be your only strategy. Don’t get dependent on medication. Today’s world is conditioned to achieve instant gratification instead of finding actual solutions. Take the time to understand and heal your body.
- Use a hot water bottle. Many women have reported that placing a hot water bottle on their lower abdomen helps reduce the intensity of the cramping. If possible, take a long soak in a hot bath. The heat will loosen the muscles and thus reduce the pain. Add aromatherapy oils to your bath; pleasant smells calm the mind and thus signal the body to relax too.
- Try to have light meals in the days leading up to your period. If there is less in your body, the muscles triggered by prostaglandins will not contract as hard in an effort to push everything out. Stick to raw veggies, fruits, juices, and herbal teas. Try not to tax your digestive system.
- Do some deep breathing techniques. Sit down in a simple cross-legged position. You do not need to close your eyes, but it does help you to concentrate on your breath (which is not as easy as you think). Take a deep breath to the slow count of three. Breathe all the way into your lower abdomen, stomach, chest and lungs. Try to imagine that you are creating space in your body with our breath. Then gently exhale, again to the slow count of three. Give yourself permission to relax and consciously feel your muscles start to loosen up. Repeat three times. Then revert to your regular breathing. Repeat if desired.
- Women who practice yoga have little to no cramping during their period. It is never too late to start. If you don’t want to get into yoga, you can learn some poses that are specifically helpful to alleviate pain such as the bridge pose. For more information please refer Importance and benefits of yoga .
- In fact, any kind of exercise that works the muscles will help. Most of us spend our days moving as little as possible. The muscles tend to get very tight because of this, which is why the contractions feel like hell. Avoid situps and crunches though. This will just make the pain worse as you tighten you pelvic muscles to accomplish them. Not good. Another advantage of exercise is that is releases endorphins in the brain. In layman’s terms, endorphins are happy hormones. And happy hormones can override the effect of prostaglandins.
- Avoid wearing tight clothes during your period. They will just constrict your organs and cause more pain.
- Try developing a healthy lifestyle. Eat healthy, cut down on junk food, sugar and caffeine, exercise regularly, sleep 7 to 8 hours a night, quit smoking, and avoid alcohol. Don’t forget to get mentally healthy too. Avoid stressful situations, do something you enjoy everyday instead of just on your days off, hang out with friends, spend time with family, and don’t bring your work home. Women who are health have an easier time when menstruating.
Lifestyle change is undoubtedly the best remedy for period pain. Try for yourself and you’ll see that it’s true. May your next period be pain-free!