There are a lot of symptoms associated with menstruation. Some are minor annoyances (bloating, anyone?), while others interfere with our daily lives due to the pain and discomfort they cause. For many of us females, painful periods have become a part of life. We deal with everything from cramping to excessive bleeding to back pain during period.
Though back pain seems completely unrelated to period pain, the two often go hand-in-hand. They’re kind of like the evil version of the Wonder Twins and have the power to knock you off your feet (literally). Here’s what all of us females should know about what could be causing back pain during our periods and what we can do about this common problem.
What’s Causing Your Low Back Pain
Lower back pain is not always a side effect of your menstrual period. However, if you tend to get recurring back pain at the same time every month, you may be dealing with yet another symptom of period pain. Back pain during your period often coincides with menstrual cramps (also known as dysmenorrhea).
It’s estimated that up to 50% of women deal with back pain during their menstrual cycle. Though disruptive and annoying, painful periods are generally not something to be super concerned about. However, some cases of severe menstrual cramps and back pain could be due to serious underlying issues. If you have an underlying reproductive condition that’s causing you severe pain every month, it’s important to talk to your doctor. We’ll go over some of those issues later in this post and help you learn how to recognize their symptoms.
Cramps and Back Pain During Period
If your uterus is doing all the work during your period, why does your back hurt, too? After all, it’s the uterus that’s contracting and working hard to clear out the uterine lining it no longer needs. So shouldn’t it just be our uterus that hurts with every uterine contraction? While this makes sense in theory, a little research shows that prostaglandin changes likely control cramping (either in your lower abdomen or back).
Prostaglandins are the hormones that cause the uterus to contract so it can shed its lining. However, your back muscles may also respond to increased prostaglandins by cramping up just like your uterus.
Usually, back cramping related to your period occurs within the first six days of menstrual bleeding. More rarely, you might experience back cramping as a result of premenstrual syndrome (also known as PMS), which refers to the unpleasant symptoms that occur before your period starts. If your back pain happens in the days preceding your period and you also experience headaches, breast tenderness, irritability, and bloating, you may be experiencing PMS symptoms.
What Is “Normal” Back Pain
When it comes to painful periods, it’s natural to wonder what’s “normal.” What amount of pelvic pain and back pain is to be expected, and at what point should we start to get concerned? While this isn’t the easiest question to answer, if our menstrual cramps (whether in the abdomen or back) interfere with our daily life, it’s time to take action.
We may also find that as we age, our period symptoms get worse. While primary dysmenorrhea is fairly normal (approximately 50% of women experience it during childbearing years), secondary dysmenorrhea is less common and more painful. Usually, secondary dysmenorrhea starts later in life. Often, symptoms are generally similar to those experienced during primary dysmenorrhea, but they are much worse.
Anytime we feel like our period pain is abnormally intense, we may want to seek a medical diagnosis and get a pelvic exam. We may be dealing with a serious reproductive issue that requires prompt care.
Besides normal female hormone changes and dysmenorrhea, there are a variety of other underlying conditions that can potentially cause back pain. They include:
- Endometriosis. Some people experience monthly back pain because of endometriosis. This is a condition that causes uterine tissue to grow outside the uterus. In some cases, endometrial tissue can wrap around other organs and cause abdominal pain in conjunction with menstruation. Endometriosis can also cause intense back pain when tissue grows around the spine. Endometriosis symptoms include pain in the lower abdomen, back, vagina, rectum, or pelvis. They can also include pain during each bowel movement and sexual intercourse.
- Uterine Fibroids. These are noncancerous growths that occur on the uterus and can lead to severe back pain and painful periods. They usually happen in older women and may require surgery if they are large enough or won’t go away on their own.
- Ovarian Cyst. An ovarian cyst is another common cause of pelvic pain during menstruation. Some women have polycystic ovarian syndrome (also known as PCOS), which is a hormone disorder that causes multiple small cysts on the ovaries. PCOS can also cause scar tissue that may contribute to painful menstrual cramps.
- Ectopic Pregnancy. Any abnormal pregnancy can lead to back pain. This includes miscarriage and ectopic pregnancy. During an ectopic pregnancy, the fetus develops outside the main uterus cavity. An ectopic pregnancy usually happens in the fallopian tube. It can be life-threatening and causes dangerous bleeding and pain in the abdomen.
- Pelvic Inflammatory Disease. This is a bacterial disease that’s often spread through sexual transmission and can cause severe pelvic pain and fever.
- Sciatic Nerve Issues. The sciatic nerve runs from the lower back down through the buttocks and backs of the legs. When the nerve becomes pinched or strained due to pelvic inflammation, common during menstruation, it can cause significant leg pain and lower back pain.
Any of these underlying causes of period back pain should be checked out by a doctor. Some of them can be quite serious if left untreated.
But when it comes to the more common and generally harmless causes of painful period cramps and back pain, let’s discuss what we can do to prevent or treat them when they arise.
Relieving the Pain
If you’re dealing with normal period pain, there are things you can do to potentially prevent it from getting worse and spreading to your back. A few great home remedies include:
- Stay hydrated. Dehydration is a common cause of muscle cramping. That’s the last thing you want to encourage during your period, so make sure you drink plenty of water.
- Apply heat to the area. If your back throbs with pain during menstruation, try applying a heating pad to it. Or you might want to relax in the tub or take a hot shower. Heat can help improve blood flow to the area and reduce cramping.
- Get a massage. If you’ve been looking for an excuse to get a massage, you’ve got it! Gentle massage therapy has been shown to reduce menstrual pain in women who have endometriosis. It’s a great way to minimize regular period cramps as well.
- Try supplements. There are some great supplements out there that can target one of the most common causes of period pain: hormone imbalances. If you can gently bring your hormones back into balance, you may be able to rid yourself of painful cramps once and for all.
- Exercise. For some women, exercise can turn minor cramps into vice grips that squeeze the life out of our abdomen. But for others, exercise can actually relieve cramps and period back pain. You’ll have to do a little experimentation to see how exercise affects you during menstruation.
While we recommend all of these pain-relieving remedies, we especially encourage hormone-balancing supplements such as Hertime Daily. This great-tasting supplement comes with 30 individual servings that can help us ladies keep our hormones in check all month long. We know that when our hormones are unbalanced, it can lead to a variety of problems, including pain and inflammation. Our ingredients target the hormones our bodies already produce and help them regulate how much to produce. Ingredients like white peony root and dong quai will help relieve cramping that is often associated with or causing back pain. It’s the perfect solution for women of all ages who want to minimize back pain and other monthly symptoms.