What Causes Painful Periods and How to Relieve

Most women have experienced period pain. By understanding causes, risk factors and remedies, you can minimize the chances of having a painful menstrual cycle.

Having a painful period is very common among teen girls and young females. Generally speaking, periods will be less painful as the female grow older. In many cases, anti-inflammatory painkillers will help to ease the pain. In most cases, the reason for the period pain is not obvious. Sometimes it will be due to a problem within the pelvis, which is more common among women in the 30s or 40s.

What Causes Menstrual Pain?

There are two groups of by the cause: primary dysmenorrhea and secondary dysmenorrhea.

Primary dysmenorrhea is a menstrual pain that takes place when menstruation first begins in healthy young women. This type of pain is not typically related to any specific problem with pelvic organs or the uterus. Experts think that it is related to the hormone prostaglandin (produced within the uterus) and its increased activity.

Secondary dysmenorrhea is a menstrual pain which develops later on in life, typically for women who have previously experienced normal periods. This category of period pain tends to be related to issues with the pelvic organs or uterus, including:

  • Stress and anxiety
  • Sexually transmitted infection
  • Premenstrual syndrome (PMS)
  • Pelvic inflammatory disease
  • IUDs (intrauterine devices) made from copper
  • Fibroids
  • Endometriosis

Who Is at Risk?

Around 50% women will experience menstrual cramping and around 15% have severe pain. Studies have indicated that women who don’t exercise frequently tend to get menstrual cramps which are more painful.

There are also several psychological factors including emotional stress that increase the probability of experiencing uncomfortable cramps. Other risk factors for these painful cramps can include:

  • Having never given birth
  • Menorrhagia (menstruation that includes heavy bleeding)
  • Beginning puberty younger than or at age 11
  • Being under 20 years old

How to Relieve Period Pain

Foods and Herbs

  • Cinnamon

For centuries, cinnamon has been a remedy for congestion associated with allergies and colds as well as an aid for digestion. It might also soothe cramps. As a bonus, the spice provides dietary fiber, iron, calcium and manganese, the last of which can help relieve menstruation symptoms.

  • Ginger

Ginger can help with symptoms of menstrual pain as well as headaches, fluand colds. Simply grate a tiny piece of ginger before adding it to some hot water and drink it.

  • Papaya

Papaya is full of period pain relieving nutrients such as vitamins A and C, carotene, and smaller amounts of calcium and iron. To make it even better, the fruit also has great nutritional value with low calories, which helps with digestion and improves the skin.

Supplement Nutrients

Sometimes poor nutrition causes deficiencies which in turn make menstruation symptoms worse. Make sure to eat plenty of foods with essential nutrients and vitamins. Below is a chart that lists several nutrients and foods containing such nutrients:

NutrientsFood Source

Iron: females lose a lot of iron during menstruation.

Chicken; leafy green vegetables; fish

Vitamin E

Broccoli; olive oil

Manganese: the intake of manganese can help to ease cramps.

Pumpkin seeds; almonds; walnuts

Vitamin B6: supplement some vitamin B6 can help to ease bloating.

Brown rice

Calcium: experts suggest women between 19 and 50 get 1,000 mpg each day.

leafy green vegetables; almonds; sesame seedsand dairy

Note: During your menstrual cycle, aim to avoid specific foods which can lead to water retention and bloating. The most important ones to avoid include carbonated beverages, alcohol and fatty foods.

Drinking Water

Oddly enough, drinking water can stop you from retaining water, in turn avoiding painful bloating. Hot liquids will usually help cramps as they improve the blood flow to your skin, relaxing cramped muscles. Also, try eating foods that contain plenty of water such as berries, watermelon, cucumbers, celery or lettuce.

Cut Out Caffeine

When you reduce your caffeine intakeor cut it out completely, you can decrease tension and alleviate period pain. During your menstrual cycle, try to skip your morning coffee or tea, soda and chocolate. Better options are caffeine-free teas such as mint or ginger, or even hot water with some lemon. For your sugar fix, opt for raspberries or strawberries.

Apply Heat

Applying heat on your lower back and abdomen can work as well as medicine. If you don’t own a heating pad or a hot water bottle, opt for a hot towel or a warm bath. You can even make your own heating pad by sewing two pieces of fabric together and filling it with rice. Microwave your heating pad for a few minutes and you are set.

Do Some Exercises

When you have painful periods, exercise may be the last thing on your mind. However, when you exercise, you release endorphins and these work as a natural mood lifter and painkiller. Instead of strenuous activity, try walking or other moderate activities. As a gentle exercise, Yoga can prevent and reduce menstrual cramps as well as release endorphins. Yoga also provides relaxation and stress relief while increasing blood flow to your reproductive organs.

When to See a Doctor

Most women notice a difference by treating their period pain at home. See your doctor in the following cases:

  • Menstrual cramps are painful for more time than normal.
  • The pain becomes suddenly different or worse.
  • There is excessive bleeding that you must change your tampon/pad more than once an hour.
  • You have signs of infection, including body aches, chills or fever.
  • Menstrual cramps start when you are over 25.
  • You think you may be pregnant, but have these menstrual symptoms.

Your doctor can help you with most symptoms. You should, however, go to the emergency room if you have any of the following issues:

  • Fainting
  • Repeated dizziness while standing
  • Sudden and intense pelvic pain that makes you double over
  • Passing tissue (grayish or silvery) in menstrual flow
  • You think you might be pregnant, but have menstrual-like pain

How to Avoid Period Pain

There are specific ways to modify your lifestyle. Here are some suggestions:

  • If you smoke, stop or at least cut down. Smoking reduces the amount of oxygen that reaches the pelvic area, which in turn increases the chances of menstruation pain.
  • Opt for supplements with GLA (gamma linolenic acid) like vitamin B6, starflower oil or primrose oil. These will help you keep your hormonal balance.
  • Avoid sugary drinks.Instead, pick mineral water or pure fruit juice.
  • Limiting your salt intake to stop water retention.
  • Reduce the amount of sugary items such as cakes and chocolate you eat.
  • Increase your consumption of fish and chicken and limit red meat to lean cuts.
  • Try taking a vitamin E supplement daily.
  • Consume less alcohol.
  • Acupuncture or acupressure.

If you still experience period pain, consult your doctor. They may prescribe other home remedies such as:

  • IUS (intrauterine system) which is a contraceptive method that can also reduce pain and blood loss.
  • Stronger painkillers to take right when your period begins.
  • Birth control pills, as this can reduce discomfort and pain as well as lighten and regularize your periods.
  • Non-hormonal drug treatments such as mefenamic acid or tranexamic acid.



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