Period pain is an extremely common condition that most women will experience at some stage in their lives. Generally caused when the muscular walls of the womb contract during menstruation, period pains, otherwise known as dysmenorrhoea, can include abdominal cramps, breast tenderness, irritability, headaches, bloating, and pain in the lower back and thighs.
While many women only experience mild symptoms during the first 24-48 hours of bleeding, others suffer severe period pains that can last up to a week, and if your monthly cycle is making you miserable, you should speak to your GP or medical professional about the many Natural and Pharmaceutical Period Pain Relief Remedies available.
The Menstrual Cycle
Menstruation is a natural 28 day cycle that prepared the body for pregnancy. Affecting women from puberty to right through to menopause, menstrual periods happen when the body releases hormones called prostaglandins, which signal the muscles in the womb to contract to remove the lining of the uterus and any unfertilised eggs.
Most period pains are caused by the contraction of the womb muscles, and subside within 48-72 hours, but menstrual pains can also be caused by an underlying medical condition such as endometriosis, fibroids, pelvic inflammatory disease and adenomyosis, and so it is essential that you seek professional medical advice before self-medicating.
Pharmaceutical Period Pain Remedies
If you suffer from mild period pains, you may be able to relieve your symptoms with over the counter painkillers such as paracetamol, or prescription painkillers such as Ibuprofen and codeine. Designed for short-term use, these pain medicines are highly effective at reducing the headaches, stomach cramps and back pains experienced during menstruation, but like all medication, they are not suitable for everyone and so you should seek medical advice.
Your GP may also prescribe Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs) to ease severe period pains.
Combined Oral Contraceptive Pill
If your period pains are severe and ongoing, your GP may prescribe a combined oral contraceptive pill such as Microgynon or Yasmin®. While generally prescribed to prevent pregnancy, oral contraceptive pills can thin the lining of the womb, which in turn reduces the production of pain-causing prostaglandin chemicals that the body produces during menstruation.
Combined Contraceptive Pills can also regulate periods and make them lighter, so this is a good alternative for professional women.
Natural Period Pain Remedies
If you prefer to treat your period pains with natural remedies, there are plenty of options to choose from. Here are some of those believed to be the most beneficial:
Heat: Applying heat to your lower abdomen during your period can help the muscles to relax and relieve those painful cramps. You could do this by having a hot bath, or by applying a hot water bottle to the affected area.
Relaxation Techniques and Yoga: Modern relaxation techniques and gentle stretching exercises such as yoga and Pilates can ease the discomfort caused by menstruation and reduce tension headaches that women often experience during their periods.
Healthy Diet: You are what you eat, and when it comes to period pain, a diet rich in ginger, basil, chamomile, cinnamon and other herbs and spices could be your recipe for pain free periods. With natural anti-inflammatory and anti-spasmodic qualities, these super foods can significantly reduce abdominal cramps.
Exercise: Light exercise such as swimming and walking can ease stomach cramps, relieve headaches, reduce bloating, and lift the depression that some women feel during menstruation. You may not feel like exercising during your period, but most women feel considerably better afterwards.
TENS: Transcutaneous Electronic Nerve Stimulation is a form of electrotherapy that can stimulate the nerves in your lower abdomen to block pain signals. A non-invasive treatment that you can do at home, it works by releasing small electrical impulses in a treatment that tingles, but is not painful.