If you have your period, you most likely have menstrual cramps. Almost every woman who menstruates will experience some type of menstrual cramp during her periods. They can range from very mild to debilitating. As many as one in four women experience such severe menstrual cramps that they need to call in sick for work or take the day off school.
So why all the pain? Quite simply, during menstruation your uterus contracts and this causes you to experience uncomfortable cramps. Along with menstrual cramps, many women also experience menstrual migraines, backaches, bloating and sore breasts. But you don't have to suffer. There are many ways for you to find menstrual cramp relief.
While some women rely upon over-the-counter medications to help do away with their cramps, others prefer to rely upon natural solutions, such as taking a bath or using botanical supplements. Read on to learn more about all you options when it comes to relieving menstrual cramps.
Banishing Cramps the Medical Way
There are generally two types of medication used to help relieve menstrual cramps: over-the-counter drugs and prescription birth control pills.
- Women who experience extremely severe menstrual cramps, as well as irregular periods, are often prescribed the birth control pill. This is because the hormones in oral contraceptives help to regulate your menstrual cycle as well as reduce the typical symptoms of menstruation. It is important to weigh all the pros and cons of using the Pill, though, before you decide to start using it.
- Many women will claim that ibuprofen is their best friend when they have their menstrual period. Over-the-counter medications that contain ibuprofen or naproxen work quickly to relieve menstrual cramps and can also help out with backaches, bloating and tender breasts -- not to mention a menstrual migraine. Some brands are designed specifically to help out women with menstrual problems and discomforts and come in a range of strengths that target certain symptoms.
If your menstrual cramps are not relieved through the use of ibuprofen or some other kind of pain reliever and/or they interfere with your daily activities, make an appointment to see your doctor. It could be the sign of something more serious.
Natural Menstrual Cramp Relief
Medication is not the only route a woman can go, though, when it comes to dealing with cramps. If you prefer to take the natural menstrual health approach when it comes to your cramps, then give one or all of these menstrual cramp relief tips a whirl.
- Following a healthy balanced diet that is high in zinc, calcium and B vitamins, especially vitamin B6 (just don't consume more than 100mg per day) should help to relieve cramps as well as bloating. It is also a good idea to cut back on your salt, sugar and caffeine intake during the week leading up to your period. Less of these items means less severe menstrual cramps.
- Heat helps, so throw a heating pad into the microwave or fill a hot water bottle and place it on your stomach or back. However, for some women, a build-up of blood in their pelvis may be the culprit behind their cramps, in which case an ice pack is actually more useful than a heat pack. The cold from the ice pack works to draw the blood out of the pelvis and towards the extremities. Try using both kinds of packs to see which is best for you.
- A nice, long warm bath is another favorite among women with menstrual cramps. Throw in some soothing aromatherapy bath salts for a truly blissful experience.
- If you can, avoid standing, especially if you have a sore back. Better yet, lie down and pull your knees up towards your chest. Many women find that lying in the fetal position helps to relieve the pain in their pelvis as well as any back pain they may have.
- While it is likely to be the last thing on your mind, exercise really can help reduce cramps so long as your workout is gentle. Walking is an excellent, gentle activity as is swimming. Some yoga positions may also be beneficial. Additionally, working out regularly, not just when you have your period, can also work to reduce the severity of your cramps.
- Some herbal teas like raspberry leaf tea and cramp bark tea have been known to relieve menstrual cramps. Speak with a trained herbalist to learn more about how to properly take these teas.
- Stock up on pineapples. Fresh pineapple juice contains a lot of bromelain, an enzyme that is thought to help relax muscles and therefore help with menstrual cramps.
- There are different massage, reflexology and acupressure techniques that you can do at home which will relieve menstrual cramps. Speak with a trained specialist to learn how to properly do these techniques yourself.
Find out more about how to deal with menstrual cramps in our menstruation forum.