PMS

9 steps to relieve menstrual cramps

Your period can be hard enough, but if cramps accompany it, it makes your “time of the month” even more difficult. Cramps are caused when your uterus contracts during your period. When it contracts, it can create pressure on blood vessels and thus momentarily cut off the flow of blood and oxygen to that area.

Despite how it can feel, menstrual cramps are generally not serious, and are not a sign of anything serious happening in your body. However, if the pain is more severe than usual, to the point where it’s actually debilitating, it can be a sign that you should see a doctor. This doesn’t mean they aren’t painful, and we’ll give you a few tips on how to relieve the pain of cramps.

1) Painkillers

For immediate relief, take pain medication. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or NSAIDs are particularly effective for menstrual cramps. NSAIDs are available over the counter both in brand names like Advil, or in any generic drug that includes mostly ibuprofen. These drugs are effective, but there are people who react badly to NSAIDs.

These drugs can thin your blood, or otherwise interfere with normal functioning. If you know that NSAIDs disagree with you, you can also take Midol or some other form of acetaminophen. These can be effective for menstrual cramps. You just need to be aware of your dosage levels, since acetaminophen is very safe, but also very easy to overdose, especially if your pain is ongoing and encourages you to take more painkillers than you mean to.

2) Heat

After you’ve taken some painkillers, the next thing to do is to lie down and apply heat. The heat will relax the muscles and ease spasms in the area. You can use a hot water bottle for fifteen or twenty minutes, to ensure that heat has time to penetrate and soothe the area.  If that doesn’t work, you can take a hot bath with Epsom salts. In addition to the heat, the Epsom salts will also work as a muscle relaxant. 9 steps to relieve menstrual cramps

3) Rest

Heat or no, even just resting has pain relieving effects. Elevate your feet and keep resting for another 20 minutes or so.

4) Massage

While you’re resting, you can massage your abdomen or have someone massage your lower back.

5) Yoga

You may not feel like doing any exercise, but yoga poses can help with menstrual cramps. The poses that will be of the most help are one that help relax and stretch abdominal muscles. The sphinx pose can be especially helpful. Focus on your breathing and make sure to breathe deeply while you hold your poses since proper breathing will also help your muscles relax.

6) Exercise

Again, you might not feel like doing exercise at the moment. The good news is this step isn’t requiring that you start jogging immediately. However, you should make exercise a regular part of your routine. Exercise promotes blood and oxygen flow, and make the muscles better able to relax. You don’t need to go out and start running marathons. In fact, if you start too ambitiously, then you’ll just injure yourself and turn yourself off exercising at all. Walking a half hour, five times a week is better than being hurt and bedridden.

7) Alcohol and cigarettes

Avoid alcohol and cigarettes. Obviously, there are many reasons why you might be motivated to do this, but they also have a major effect on the pain and severity of your period.

8) Dairy

Another ongoing measure you can take is to eliminate dairy from your diet. During your period avoid eating milk, cheese or any other dairy products to reduce cramping and pain.

9) Vitamins

In the days leading up to your period, make certain you are getting enough nutrients. You’ll need to be certain that you get both the right amount and type of vitamins. Vitamin E is especially important for you to supplement, taking 500 IUs before and during your period. There is also some evidence that B1, B6 and fish oil can also help with menstrual pain. If none of these methods are enough, it might be time to talk to your doctor about birth control. Taking “the pill” makes the lining of your uterus thinner.  The thinner lining will result in less severe periods, with fewer contractions and fewer cramps. There is also a kind of pill that not only works as birth control, but also means that you will only have a period every three months. You may experience spotting, but if your periods are still very severe or painful, then it might be nice to only have to experience them every few months. You also might think about talking to your doctor about an form of contraception that is injected rather than taken as a pill. This form for contraception is taken every three months at the doctor’s office. Like the pill, this also thins the uterine lining, which, like the pill, will make your period less severe. You might also explore options around an intrauterine device or IUD. The hormonal IUD can lessen the severity of your period.   If none of these measures are enough, then it’s time to talk to your doctor about what else might be going on. What you have is dysenorrhea, or severe cramping, which is often an indication that there is something more serious going on. It isn’t just a normal, expected side effect of normal bodily functions. The cause is often something called endometriosis. This is a condition where the uterine lining is actually found outside the uterus. While some pain and cramping is to be expected during your period, it shouldn’t knock you on your back every month. If this is what’s happening, then it’s time to visit a doctor and find out if there is something more serious going on.

Further Reading

Diseases and Conditions: Menstrual cramps. by Mayo Clinic Staff. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/menstrual-cramps/basics/definition/con-20025447. How to Get Rid of Menstrual Cramps. Wikihow. http://www.wikihow.com/Get-Rid-of-Menstrual-Cramps. How to Get Rid of Menstrual Cramps Fast. by Sara Ipatenco. Livestrong.com. http://www.livestrong.com/article/269800-how-to-get-rid-of-menstrual-cramps-fast

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