The primary symptoms of menstrual cramps can occur 72 hours before the start of menstruation and continue for 72 hours after it has begun. For most women, the time frame is around 48 hours long which includes some time before the beginning of the flow and into the actual menstruation process.
You can learn how to relieve menstrual cramps naturally by coming to understand which symptoms are associated with what phase of menstruation (dysmenorrhea). There are two types, primary (during your period) and secondary (during ovulation). The symptoms of cramping during primary dysmenorrhea include:
- loose stool
- abdominal cramping
- pains in the uterus or ovary area
- feelings of heaviness and nausea
- increased moodiness
Some women may experience muscle cramping in the abdominal area as well as the cramping of the uterine muscle too. The majority of cramping experienced (which can feel like a sharp pain or a painless pressure in the uterine area) is from the contractions of the uterine walls.
Cramping during ovulation
Secondary dysmenorrhea is associated with the symptoms of menstrual cramps that may occur during the actual time frame of menstruation, or during ovulation. They are commonly experienced as a pain or cramping in the womb area, or ovaries. Many women also experience heaviness to their body, it often feels as if the uterus has gotten heavier and is lying lower in the body than before. Some women will also experience a sharp pain in the general location of one ovary around the time of ovulation. The pain usually does not last long.
What makes cramps worse?
There are quite a few things that can make menstrual cramps worse. The first one that everyone cautions against is caffeine. This may not make sense to you when you think that caffeine is a common ingredient in many of the over the counter remedies, but too much caffeine can cause you to retain water. You also don’t want to stop drinking water to avoid the water bloat that can aggravate the symptoms of menstrual cramps.
If you stop drinking water your body will go into a starvation mode and retain as much water as it can – aggravating the problem. Making sure you get regular sleep and exercise remains one of the best ways to relieve the symptoms. Being overweight or having a sedentary lifestyle has been proven to make them worse.
What factors affect severity?
There are many different factors that will affect the severity of your menstrual cramps. Your diet, weight and amount of exercises that you get on a daily basis will be one of the most important. Woman who have had, or have – fibroids, endometriosis and other conditions may have more severe cramps if the condition is not resolved.
You can also increase your risk for cramps by being in a high stress lifestyle, having inadequately managed diabetes and other disorders or diseases. Some medications can also increase the rate of your menstrual flow as a side effect which can also cause pain. There are a few conditions that are genetic that can promote menstrual cramping as well.
Relieve menstrual cramps naturally with herbal compounds and teas
Many herbal remedies have clinical proof behind them that they can relieve the symptoms just as well as the over the counter remedies, but may not have the side effects or additional ingredients that many people don’t want in their pain relievers. Some of the most common herbs used to relieve menstrual cramps naturally are:
- Jamaican Dogwood
- Dong Quai
- Black Cohosh
- Sweet fennel
Black cohosh has gotten a lot of notice recently as a way to reduce the symptoms of menopause naturally as well. These compounds can be taken in a pill, tea or tincture form – which ever works best for you. Be careful and pay attention to how you react to them as just because they are natural, doesn’t mean they don’t come without side effects.
Drinking water and stretching to reduce severity of cramps
One of the best ways to relieve menstrual cramps naturally is to work towards increased muscle relaxation and flexibility and to reduce any water retention in the body. Water bloating can be difficult to get rid of it just by not drinking water. This won’t get your body to release the water it is retaining; in fact, it will cause it to retain more water. If the body believes that it will not receive adequate food or water, it will choose to store and hoard fat and water in the cells.
Drinking enough water, but avoiding sugary drinks and caffeinated drinks will help you to stay hydrated but to avoid water bloat. Another of the ways to ease menstrual cramps is to keep your lower back and upper hamstrings well stretched. These are the two areas of the body that tend to tighten in response to the uterine contraction that can increase the severity of your pain.
Changing your diet and keeping to regular exercise
Eating a diet that is low in caffeine, low in salt and avoids certain foods – such as processed foods and those with a high GI also one of the best ways to ease menstrual cramps. High GI foods tend to those with processed sugars and flours – white flour, white rice and baked goods all tend to be in the high glycemic range. One thing that all women should avoid if they are trying ease menstrual cramps is alcohol of any sort. Alcohol may feel like it may help you relax, but the effect is too dehydrating on the body in even small amounts to really help – it can contribute t bloating.
When should I be worried about menstrual cramps?
Most women get menstrual cramps of the primary and secondary types. The type of symptoms of menstrual cramps that you may get will vary through your life time so you shouldn’t worry if there is a change in what you experience. There are some changes that mean you should see a doctor as there may be an underlying condition creating them. You should see a doctor if:
- Symptoms are very painful, recurring or last for several days.
- Symptoms become worse for several consecutive periods.
- Bleeding is heavy.
- You are spotting through the month.
- Unusual swelling or tenderness in the abdomen, groin or genital area.
While it is not uncommon for women to experience a change in the symptoms of menstrual cramps that are associated with menopause, if there is any very noticeable change at all you should see your doctor.