Menstrual cramps are also often referred to as period pain, but the fancy formal medical term is ‘dysmenorrhea’.
While period cramps are relatively common - not all cramps are created equal. While they are mild for some, for others, they can have a huge impact and cause debilitating pain.
What Causes Period Pain?
Menstrual cramps are caused by the contraction of the uterus, which occurs as it sheds its lining during the menstrual cycle. The contractions happen when the uterus produces prostaglandins. While these contractions help to expel the lining of the uterus (your period), they can also cause pain and discomfort for many.
But because things in life aren’t always straightforward, it’s not just prostaglandins who are the culprits when it comes to period pain. Other factors may be at play, too, including:
- Endometriosis: Endometriosis is a condition where the tissue that normally lines the uterus grows outside of it. This can cause painful cramps during menstruation.
- Fibroids: Fibroids are noncancerous growths that can develop in the uterus. They can cause painful cramps, heavy menstrual bleeding, and other symptoms.
How to Relieve Menstrual Cramps
- Over-the-counter pain relievers: Anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen can help relieve period pain by reducing inflammation and blocking the production of prostaglandins.
- Heat: Grab a heated wheat bag or hot water bottle and place it on your lower tum. A warm bath can also help.
- Exercise: We get it; it’s the last thing you feel like doing, but gentle exercise can seriously help by increasing blood flow and releasing endorphins - which are natural pain relievers.
- Sex: Gettin’ it on can help relieve pain thanks to the release of endorphins - and let’s face it, if nothing else, it’s also a good distraction!
- Herbal remedies: Herbs, such as ginger and cinnamon, have anti-inflammatory properties that can help reduce menstrual cramps so drinking herbal teas or taking herbal supplements may provide relief.
- Chocolate: It ain’t just a rumour - chocolate can indeed help with menstrual cramps but stick to dark chocolate because it contains magnesium which is a muscle relaxant.
Can using a Menstrual Cup or Disc Relieve Period Pain?
At Hello Period, we often get messages from customers who swear their cup or disc has helped reduce their cramps. While we’d love to say they have the ability to do this, there is no scientific proof this is the case. We’d love to see more research into the topic though!
Severe and On-Going Menstrual Pain
If your period pain is severe and impacts your daily life, we recommend you seek medical advice. There are many ways doctors can help. Treatment will vary for each person but may include prescription pain relief, and hormonal birth control such as the pill. They’ll also be able to establish whether you might need specialist care.