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Abnormalities of Menses: Menstrual Cramps and Ways to Manage it at Home

Period cramps

In this post we'll be looking at a very common yet ignored problem. Period cramps. Period cramps medically known as menstrual cramps is a type of throbbing, cramping pain which affects over 80-85% of women over their lifetime. 

The pain may affect many people before and during their periods. While some people only experience mild cramps, others aren't quite as lucky. In some cases, the pain from the period cramps can be so severe, it makes a serious dent in your daily life. 

Well, in a nutshell, every month the body of a female prepares itself for a possible pregnancy. It secretes hormones which thicken the uterus from the inside and causes the ovaries to release an egg which potentially will be fertilized by a sperm. 

When this fertilization doesn't occur, the hormone levels fall. Falling hormone levels lead to two things. The thickened uterus is no longer required and a chemical by the name of prostaglandin gets released in increasing amounts. 

Prostaglandins trigger contractions within the uterus which helps the body to shed the excess uterus lining leading to symptoms of period cramps like pain, cramping and mood changes for the very first few days. 

While this cramping is necessary for the body every month, let's be honest, excess cramping is something no one wants to face. So if period pain is cramping your lifestyle every month, there are steps you can take to gain back the control. 

Here we are with a few proven remedies that may ease your discomfort and help you get back on track with your busy life. So let's begin. 

1. Use a heat patch 

Using a heated patch or a heated wrap on your abdomen can help relax the muscles of your uterus. It's these muscles that cause period cramps. The heat also boosts blood circulation in your abdomen which can reduce the pain.

According to a 2004 study, wearing a heat wrap or using a heated water bottle for cramps is actually more effective than taking over-the-counter pain relievers like acetaminophen. The study also showed that besides being effective at easing the pain and cramps, participants who used a heat wrap had less fatigue and less mood swings compared to those who didn't. 

Hot water bottle for period cramps
Hot water bottle for period cramps 

You can find abdominal heat patches at your local drugstore and online. Electric heating pads and hot water bottles are equally effective and easily available. They are good choices if you are spending some time at home and don't need to move around much. 

2. Take a over-the-counter pain reliever

According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, over-the-counter pain relievers like ibuprofen, naproxen, and aspirin are effective treatments for period cramps. These actually act against the very prostaglandins that cause the cramping. 

These medications work best if they are taken at the first sign of cramps or pain. You can find ibuprofen, naproxen, or aspirin at any drugstore over the counter. Like any drug, these drugs have side effects and should be taken seriously and with advice of your doctor only. Be sure to take only as directed and talk to your doctor first. If you are having a history of heart, liver, or kidney problems, or if you have asthma, ulcers, or other bleeding disorders, never use this medications.

3. Exercise Regularly

According to a recent study, low to medium-intensity aerobic exercise can help reduce pain caused by period cramps. In this study, scientists found that women who did 30 minutes of aerobic exercise 3 days a week for 8 weeks showed significant reductions in period cramps. 

Possibly, exercise increases the oxygen availability in uterus and relieves the spasms, which effectively controls these cramps. To fit an aerobic workout into your schedule, consider biking to work, going for a brisk walk at lunchtime, dancing to your favorite tunes, or playing a sport you enjoy. 

Nothing is a better substitute for a bad mood than having fun and working out. One study suggests that like aerobic exercise, yoga can also be helpful at reducing period cramps. In this study, experts found that women who participated in a 60-minute yoga class once a week for 12 weeks showed significant reductions in their period pain. We at Lafiyata cannot stress enough on the importance of yoga, mindfulness, and meditation. 

Stress-busting has been linked to numerous solutions for a wide variety of problems, from gut instability to hair fall and now period cramps. If you would like to try yoga, look for a class with both a physical component and a relaxation component. Research suggests that this combination is most effective at reducing pain from period cramps. 

4. Dietary Supplements 

Several studies suggest that different types of dietary supplements may help reduce period cramps, though it's not exactly known how they work. Some supplements that show promise in reducing period pain include calcium, vitamin B6, B1, vitamin E and vitamin D, magnesium, zinc, vitamin B12, and fish oil. 

You can find these dietary supplements at your local drug store or online. Use as directed and talk to your doctor if you're having any other medications as they may interact with supplements. 

5. Diet Changes 

While supplements may help ease period pain, it's also a good idea to avoid certain foods that can cause water retention, bloating, and discomfort. Some types of foods to stay away from when you have cramps include salty foods, caffeine, alcohol, and fatty foods. 

According to a 2000 study, a low-fat vegetarian diet can help reduce period pain and premenstrual syndrome. But beware, a vegetarian diet can lead to many vitamin deficiencies. So while it's prudent to try newer diets, it's important to keep your mineral levels adequate. 

Also, according to experts, you're more likely to have abdominal cramps during your period if you're dehydrated. Dehydration stresses the body, and when you're already experiencing cramps, it worsens the symptoms. So it's always a good habit to remain hydrated even on normal days. 

Aim to drink at least 8 glasses of water per day. You'll need more if it's summer and if you've been exercising, or if you simply feel thirsty. 

Closing thought 

The bottom line is, period cramps are very common, but there are times when they can interfere with your day-to-day life. Fortunately, combination of diet, exercise, and lifestyle modifications can help ease the pain and discomfort caused by these cramps. It's important to remember, severe pain isn't normal and one should not ignore symptoms and changes in your body. You should make an appointment to see a doctor if your period cramps are so painful that you can't go on about your daily activities. Or if you've started having bleeding symptoms or medications that do not relieve your symptoms. 

Extreme pain before or during your period can be a sign of a more serious health condition that needs treatment, such as endometriosis, pelvic inflammatory disease, sexually transmitted infections, uterine fibroids, adenomyosis, or cervical stenosis. So friends, here we are with 5 things that you can do to manage period cramps at home easily. 


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