5 Ways to Ease Period Cramps
Period cramps are a recurrent lower abdominal pain, that can occur a few days before and during your period. The pain can range from mild to severe – especially during the first few days of your period – and at times, be quite debilitating.
The pain is usually dull and can be felt above the pelvic bone, around the lower back and mid-thighs. In some cases, the pain is accompanied by nausea, vomiting, dizziness, diarrhea or constipation and headaches.
It is often advisable to go see a doctor if the pain becomes more severe with each menstrual cycle, as at times, the pain can be due to other underlying issues.
So I googled this, and came across the term ‘dysmenorrhea’?
Dysmenorrhea is the medical term for period cramps. When the pain is only during your period, it is primary dysmenorrhea. When the pain is due to an underlying issue, such as endometriosis, PCOS, or fibroids, it is referred to as secondary dysmenorrhea.
If you have severe cramps, lasting for more than a couple days, and suspect that there may be an underlying issue – go see your doctor. They’ll ask you about your symptoms, menstrual history and possibly perform a pelvic exam. Some additional tests may be done if it is suspected that your cramps aren’t just related to your period.
But what actually causes these cramps?
During your period, your uterus is shedding it’s lining and contracting to help push the period blood out. Prostaglandins are chemicals that are formed, to help your uterus contract. These uterine muscle contractions can decrease blood flow and oxygen to the uterus, causing pain. The prostaglandins also contribute to the nausea and diarrhea some experience.
Cramps are highly common, especially amongst adolescents. They typically start within the first few years of starting your period, and often, decrease in severity with age.
Ok, so what can I do to feel better?
– The most commonly used method is to take over-the-counter medications such as ibuprofen, naproxen or panadol. Stronger, period-specific pain medications are also available. Always follow the instructions written on the bottle and in the case of any medicine-allergies, speak with your doctor first.
– Some doctors may prescribe hormonal birth control pills that help to reduce pain while also regulating your period.
– During the first couple hours of cramps, applying low-level heat has been shown to reduce pain significantly better than medications. Most use both methods of heat and medication to get quick relief. Heat can be applied by purchasing heat pads, a hot water bottle, or heat wrap. Follow the instructions on the packets carefully. Take caution to not to fall asleep with these on, as some can cause burns.
– If you don’t have these items at home, try taking a hot shower, using a warm towel or ironing a piece of cloth and wrapping it around your lower back
– Although the idea of squats, lunges and sprints while on your period may not sound particularly relaxing – studies have shown that even light exercise can help combat period cramps
– Choose an exercise that you enjoy and helps you feel good. This can include anything from walking, running, swimming or more
– Exercises that engage the core can be particularly helpful
– Slow movements that involve deep breathing, such as in yoga, can also be alleviating
– If you go to a gym or studio, ask a certified instructor for some tips!
Just take a step back, and relax:
– Quality of sleep has been shown to effect the severity of cramps. Take this time to improve your sleeping habits or maybe just take a quick nap to help you feel more refreshed
– Engage in a calming activity that helps you feel good, whether its listening to music, reading a book, watching a movie or hanging out with a friend. Don’t over-exert yourself!
– A good massage is not only relaxing, but can also increase blood flow and therefore help against cramps. Applying some pressure, in a circular motion to the base of your thumb and big toe are some acupressure points that can help with cramps as well
– Sitting back and sipping on some tea may be just what you need! Try chamomile, cinnamon or ginger!
– Whether it’s by yourself or with your partner – orgasms allow the uterus to relax and increase blood flow, automatically helping with cramps!
Cramps are a natural, albeit painful part of the menstruation process. Though uncomfortable, periods are not a ‘curse’ – far from it! They are NOTHING to be ashamed of.
Talking about your period with trusted friends, can help in dispelling any negative thoughts and help you become more comfortable in your body.
With the right tools, you can ease your cramps and make your period more pleasant. It’s all about finding what works for you!
The Best Period Tracking Apps
FLO Period & Ovulation Tracker
FLO is marketed as the No. 1 Women’s Health App – a ‘true fertility friend’. The app includes a period tracker, ovulation and fertility calendar, as well as a pregnancy-specific mode. All you have to do is record your symptoms and the app does the rest by converting your information into super useful and easy-to-read graphs helping you to better understand your body. This app is especially handy for those with irregular cycles – the more you log in, the more accurate the app’s predictions! The app also does a neat job of sending relevant daily health insights and articles tailored specifically for you and your cycle. It’s the perfect app for taking full control of your health!
CLUE Period Tracker
Rated as one of the top free period tracker apps by the Obstetrics & Gynecology Journal, CLUE is here for all your menstrual health needs. In addition to the usual period and ovulation calendars, the app offers menstrual flow, products, fluid (discharge) and pain trackers as well. The more information you log in, the more accurate your reminders for your next period and PMS. The app also keeps tabs on your fertility and sex habits, as well as helping you set birth control pill reminders. Still not sure about what’s going on with your body? Head over to the app’s website for all your menstrual and sexual health related questions!
EVE by Glow
Want to own your cycle? Want to feel good in bed? Then EVE is the app for you! Marketed as an app to track your period and sex life, Eve covers all the bases with its sex, health and period logs. Your information is presented in eye-catching charts and a daily ‘cyclescope’ – a forecast of where you are in your cycle and the symptoms you may be experiencing. The app also offers some serious in-app support, with a community of users that you can chat with about your period and sex-related health – ‘no topic is off limits’! An added bonus are some sexy quizzes, sexplanations and articles – offering you the information you need to understand your cycle and body in a whole new way.