Menstrual Cramps: How To Cope With The Cramps effectively
Dysmenorrhea or menstrual cramps affect the lower abdomen. The pain can intensify even in the thighs, legs, and back. The cramping is like a spreading sensation or throbbing. It may come in episodes or remain consistent. The aches may begin before periods. These may occur for 2 to 3 days of the bleeding.
While menstrual cramps may be non-serious, in some cases, these indicate critical health issues. In this post, we will discuss its causes, symptoms, complications, diagnosis, risk factors, treatment, lifestyle changes, and other solutions.
Causes for Menstrual Cramps
During menses, your uterus contracts. This allows the uterine lining to break and expel, which constitutes the bleeding. Uterine muscle contractions happen due to prostaglandins. These are hormonal substances. These are responsible for inflammation and pain.
If the level of prostaglandin is high, then the menstrual cramps are more serious. Reasons for the increased cramping are:
Pelvic Inflammatory Disease
This is a female reproductive organ infection. The cause for this is bacteria from a sexually transmitted condition.
Here, uterus tissue implants outside the uterus. The common location for endometriosis is ovaries, fallopian tubes, or pelvic lining tissues.
If the cervical opening is too small to pass the menstrual blood, then the pressure within the uterus increases. This leads to severe menstrual cramps.
The uterine tissues start growing into a thick and muscular wall. The wall then starts to encroach on the uterus.
Fibroids inside the uterus may cause serious aches. These are noncancerous growth. But it causes health issues.
Menstrual Cramps Symptoms
Some of the signs of the pain in periods are:
- The pain can begin a few days before periods
- The same is highest a day before periods
- The cramps may or may not diminish within 2 to 3 days
- Pain in the thighs and lower back
- Continuous ache either dull or increasing
- A throbbing pain that can turn intense at the lower abdomen
- Other symptoms include headache, nausea, dizziness, stomach upset
You can manage the aches at home. If the symptoms get worse and it affects your daily life, then consult a doctor. For some, the cramps never bother for years together. Suddenly someday the pain may begin during periods. These may reoccur at every period. Even at such an instance, visit a physician.
Menstrual cramps lead to moderate to severe pain. These do not cause health issues. But can disrupt daily activities. Cause of the aches such as endometriosis gives rise to fertility issues. It may even risk ectopic pregnancy. Here the fertilized egg implants outside the uterus. The pelvic inflammatory disease may scar fallopian tubes.
A physical exam along with a pelvic exam is the primary diagnosis method. The pelvic exam will inform if there are any problems in the reproductive organs. The abnormalities such as infection, overgrowth of tissues, etc may account for menstrual cramps.
The doctor will also inquire about your medical history. If he/she thinks that a certain disorder is responsible for the aches, then you may be prescribed the following:
Here, the medical machinery passes sound waves to the body part. These waves create an image of the uterus, ovaries, fallopian tubes, and cervix. So, the scan will show if any abnormalities exist. Accordingly, the technician will prepare a report explaining the unusuality.
This test may or may not diagnose menstrual cramps individually. But it can diagnose the responsible cause of fibroids, adhesions, endometriosis, ectopic pregnancy, and ovarian cysts. These conditions are the leading factors to pain during periods. So, laparoscopy is one of the options to detect cramping.
In this exam, the physician will make a tiny incision on your stomach. Then he/she will insert a camera lens attached to a fibre-optic tube inside. The doctor will view your reproductive organs and abdominal cavity. As the test is a bit invasive, it gives a clear idea of the problem at hand.
An MRI scan or CT scan is another detection method. They are painless. Also, there is no need to insert anything into the body. This provides more information than an ultrasound. If the latter does not show any cause, but the menstrual cramps exist, then any of these scans may take place.
An MRI creates a powerful magnetic field with radio waves. This creates a detailed image of the body’s internal structures. A CT scan produces cross-sectional images of organs, soft tissues, and bones inside the body. It happens with the help of X-ray images from different angles.
Not everyone will get menstrual cramps at the same intensity. For some, it is mild to moderate. For others, it is severe. Certain women are more prone to pain. Those at risk include:
- Smokers and those below 30 years of age
- You have metrorrhagia (irregular menstrual bleeding)
- You hit puberty at 11 years of age or less
- You have menorrhagia (heavy bleeding during periods)
- Family history of dysmenorrhea
To hold off menstrual cramps, here are a few treatments to know:
Hormonal Birth Control
Hormonal birth control pills and products have female sex hormones. These restrict ovulation, which dims the effect of menstrual cramps. Also, the uterine lining thins out. This makes it easier for the blood to pass out. You can find different forms of hormonal contraceptives.
These include oral pills, skin implant, intrauterine device (IUD) skin patch, injection, and vaginal ring. Each of these items has a different way of use. So, get to know about it before choosing any. You must opt for the one that suits your health. It is better to take the advice of a doctor here.
Surgical Removal of Uterus
Surgical removal of the uterus is the last resort. You can opt for it when other treatments fail. If you have a plan to conceive again, then this idea is not good. But you may have to go this way in case of fibroids or endometriosis. Here, the uterus has abnormal growth of endometrial tissues.
Because of the unusual growth of tissues, the bleeding during menses is heavy. Also, the bleeding is for a prolonged time. Some people bleed for weeks and months together. They also encounter a lot of pain in the menstrual cycle. To get rid of the issue, either the surgeon will remove the tissue or uterus.
People with endometriosis or fibroids tend to succumb to the overgrowth of tissues even after an operation. So, many females go for the removal of the uterus altogether.
You can control the menstrual cramps before your periods start. OTC painkillers such as Motrin IB, Advil, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicines, Aleve (naproxen sodium) are good. You can start taking the medicine the day before you think the menses will begin.
Follow the regular dose. If you take it as soon as the symptoms start to occur, then the pain will reduce. You may have to continue the pills. Do so till cramping decreases and the symptoms disappear.
The best thing to do is grab enough sleep. Take rest, and this will assist in killing the muscle ache. Here are a few other lifestyle tips that will further help.
Some of the supplements that have a hand in holding off menstrual cramps are Omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin E, thiamine (vitamin B-1), Magnesium, and vitamin B-6.
Stress is correlated to several health issues. It can affect hormones and mood. If you have psychological stress, then menstrual cramps may increase. So, if you keep stress in check during periods, then it will decrease the instances of ache. Remain happy, and the pain will go down.
Exercising regularly can have a positive impact on your overall health. Even sexual intimacy may benefit. However, it is better to avoid intercourse or penetration if you are bleeding. Probably stick to foreplay, even that will aid in controlling the pain.
Other Ways to Reduce the Menstrual Cramps
Alternative therapies can take care of painful cramps during the menstrual cycle. Some of the options include:
Here, the practitioner stimulates particular body points. The person applies gentle pressure on the body. It works better than a placebo. As these techniques are complex, only approach a professional. There is so much evidence if acupressure can reduce cramps. But you may give it a shot.
Unlike Acupressure, Acupuncture deals with the insertion of thin needles at specific body points. The practitioner inserts the needle at important points of the body to take away the symptoms. To decrease menstrual cramps, this technique may or may not work. Again, consult an expert at it.
To ease the cramps, apply a heating pad to the affected region. Take a warm bath to calm the muscle pain. Try OTC painkillers such as Ibuprofen. Heat patch and hot water bottle pressure on the abdomen can also work.
Fennel, pycnogenol, and similar herbal products can provide some respite from period cramps. If you are choosing herbal products, make sure these are reliable. Go for a prescribed supplement. Do not self-prescribe, as these supplements may have side effects. Or, these may not suit everyone.
TENS or Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation
TENS Devices stimulate natural painkillers such as endorphins. Here, the device is connected through adhesive patches to the skin. These patches have electrodes inside. Electric current passes at different levels through the electrodes. The currents stimulate nerves.
The device helps to lessen the pain. It may have a more positive effect than receiving no treatment at all. Usually, this option is for people with serious menstrual cramps and pain.
Bonus Read: Learn About Home Remedies To Regulate Your Periods.
Menstrual cramps may disturb your schedule because of serious pain. You can seek timely treatment of the underlying cause. This will give you the required relief.
July 19, 2021 Sam Bell