How to Get Rid of Cramps: Period Help
Like dark clouds that gather before a rainstorm, abdominal cramps are often one of the first warning signs that a woman's period is about to start. While a few lucky women feel minimal cramps or no cramps at all, many of us experience moderate to intense cramping before or during our periods.
According to the Journal of Women's Health, period pain has a significant negative impact on girls and women. Period cramps, along with other symptoms like bloating, mood swings, and headaches, can sideline too many of us from school, work, sports, and our social lives.
Many women rely on over-the-counter pain relievers to manage the discomfort, but too many women have accepted the myth that period cramps are just an inevitable part of being female and suffer each month.
The good news is that this isn’t necessarily true. In this article, you'll learn about what causes cramps and what you can do to effectively manage them.
What Are Cramps and Why Do We Get Them?
Painful menstruation is referred to as dysmenorrhea in the medical community. There are two types of dysmenorrhea: primary and secondary.
Primary dysmenorrhea is most common and is the natural (though unpleasant) cramping sensation stimulated by hormone fluctuations. Though it’s not desirable, it’s nothing to be too concerned about.
Secondary dysmenorrhea, on the other hand, is an abnormal condition that causes severe menstrual pain due to an underlying health issue. Common causes of secondary dysmenorrhea include adenomyosis and endometriosis.
While menstrual cramps may seem like a curse, there’s actually a pretty simple explanation for them. Each month, our bodies go through a variety of hormone changes that prepare us for pregnancy. If pregnancy doesn’t occur, our body gets the signal to ditch its lush uterine lining (endometrium).
To shed the lining, the uterus begins to contract and relax to loosen the endometrium’s hold on the interior of the uterus. As this happens, the endometrium begins to detach and flow out of the body a little bit at a time.
It’s believed that an increase in hormones called prostaglandins is most likely to blame for the pain and cramping some women experience when the uterine lining is expelled. Higher levels of prostaglandins in some women are associated with more intense menstrual pain because they can cause powerful muscle spasms in the uterus.
However, prostaglandins may not cause every instance of menstrual cramping. Unfortunately, it isn’t fully understood why some women experience more painful periods than others. Some women have painful menstrual cramps every month with no clear cause, while others may experience severe pain due to underlying medical conditions such as pelvic inflammatory disease, premenstrual syndrome, uterine fibroids, or endometriosis.
What Do Period Cramps Feel Like?
Whether you’re getting your monthly period for the first time or you’re one of the fortunate few who have had it for years without experiencing regular pain, you may be wondering what menstrual cramps feel like. You may imagine they feel a lot like any other muscle cramp, such as a leg cramp. While the aching and stabbing sensations associated with menstrual cramps may be similar to any other muscle contraction cramp, they aren’t exactly the same.
A painful cramp in the leg, or anywhere else in the body is usually short-lived, while menstrual cramp pain tends to drag on for days. It’s like a cramped muscle that never ends. For some of us, the pain is debilitating and can keep us down and out until it subsides.
Menstrual cramp pain typically occurs in the lower abdomen. For many women, it sets in one to three days before they start bleeding. The pain often peaks within 24 hours from when bleeding starts, then begins to ease after that. Some women have one or two days of painful cramping every month, while others may be in pain for most of their menstrual bleeding phase.
Cramps can feel like a dull, continuous ache or a throbbing, stabbing pain. Some women report period cramp pain that radiates to the lower back.
Some women also experience dizziness, nausea, headaches, and loose stools during their periods. If you experience extreme pain, bleeding, or other debilitating symptoms during your menstrual cycle, you may want to talk to a doctor about your concerns.
What Can Make Cramps Worse?
Several environmental and lifestyle factors can potentially exacerbate period cramps:
- Diet — Consuming excessive amounts of caffeine, sugary foods, salty snacks, and processed foods might contribute to inflammation and worsen cramps.
- Stress — High levels of stress can lead to increased muscle tension and heightened pain perception, potentially intensifying cramps.
- Dehydration — Dehydration can lead to muscle cramping and overall discomfort during menstruation.
- Poor sleep — Inadequate sleep can disrupt hormonal balance and increase sensitivity to pain, potentially making cramps feel worse.
- Smoking — Smoking can lead to reduced blood flow and oxygen supply to tissues, potentially worsening cramps.
Of course, at some point, age is your friend when it comes to monthly period cramps. Menopause is when the body undergoes changes that mark the end of the menstrual cycle. Though there are a lot of unpleasant things associated with menopause, the end of monthly bleeding and associated symptoms is a huge plus!
How Can I Get Rid of Cramps?
From home remedies to quick fixes to long-term changes, here are several ways you can ease period cramps and get off the sidelines and back in the game of life.
Home remedies provide easy and effective ways to minimize monthly period pain. Some of our favorite home remedies include:
- Hertime: One of our absolute favorite remedies is our all-natural, hormone-regulating supplement, Hertime. You can find relief from things like fluid retention, sugar cravings, pain and inflammation, and other symptoms. Your body will also receive hormone support to better balance the hormones it already naturally releases.
- Herbs: Some herbs are known for their anti-inflammatory benefits and may reduce menstrual pain. They include chamomile tea, ginger, fenugreek, cinnamon, turmeric root, dill, and fennel. Drinking herbal tea is an easy and soothing way to introduce these herbs into your diet.
- Massage with essential oils: Try this incredibly relaxing home remedy for cramps, and you’ll be hooked. Massaging the abdomen gently can improve blood flow to the area, which can help relax your cramping muscles. To maximize the benefits of your massage, use essential oils. Some oils are known to provide pain relief, including lavender, clove, marjoram, sage, rose, and cinnamon. Be sure only to use safe amounts (1-2 drops) of each oil and to dilute them with a carrier oil (such as coconut or jojoba oil) before applying them to your skin.
- TENS machine: A TENS machine is an electrical machine that sends electrical impulses into the muscles. This may sound painful and counterintuitive to treat cramps with electrical shocks. However, the impulses are not painful at all. With a simple TENS unit, you have control over the intensity of the electrical impulses. Research shows that a TENS machine may reduce the pain signals that reach the brain.
- CBD oil: Cannabidiol is a powerful anti-inflammatory found in marijuana. Contrary to popular belief, it won’t get you high because it’s the non-psychoactive part of the plant. There is still a lot of research that needs to be done, but anecdotal evidence suggests CBD oil can minimize period pain.
Let’s face it, ladies. Sometimes we need a really quick pain relief fix for our period cramping. When we’re in a bind and focused on getting rid of cramps quickly, here are a few things we can try:
- NSAIDs (such as ibuprofen or aspirin): These OTC drugs are anti-inflammatory, which means they can help temporarily reduce pain. However, when our body is sending us a pain signal, it’s the body’s way of communicating that something is wrong. Occasionally we need a quick fix to ease the discomfort. However, it’s important to take them only as directed, as too much ibuprofen or aspirin can be detrimental to your health. That’s why it’s best to focus on long-term solutions (listed below!) that will get rid of your pain for good.
- Heating pad: A heated pad or wrap can boost circulation to your abdomen while simultaneously relaxing your uterus muscles. Using a heat wrap can be just as effective for relieving menstrual cramps as taking pain relievers!
- Warm bath: A warm bath is relaxing no matter what, but it’s especially comforting when you’re experiencing period cramps. The warmth from the water works the same way a heating pad does and helps relax your cramping muscles so you can experience some relief. For even more relaxing benefits, try adding Epsom salt to your bathwater. The magnesium in the salt helps to reduce cramping. Magnesium is also an important mineral for blood vessel walls.
While short-term fixes are nice, wouldn’t it be even better if you could implement long-term changes that would help you avoid getting cramps in the first place? Well, ladies, you can. Here are some of the top lifestyle changes that can result in less painful periods and improved quality of life.
- Nutritional supplements: Certain vitamins and minerals are very good for reducing period pain. They include fish oil, B vitamins, calcium, and magnesium. Additionally, nutritional supplements such as Hertime Daily combine natural micronutrients that are known to balance and correct female hormones. Since hormone imbalance may be to blame for cramping and other PMS symptoms, taking such supplements regularly may help minimize your monthly pain while helping you feel better overall. Drinking just one packet of Hertime every day is a quick, easy, and delicious way to actually fix the underlying source of your period pain.
- Good sleep: Did you know insomnia can increase your risk of dysmenorrhea? Sufficient sleep can reduce menstrual pain, so try to get at least six to eight hours of shuteye every night.
- Proper hydration: Our bodies need water to function properly. When we become dehydrated, our muscles are more prone to cramping. Aim to get at least six to eight glasses of water per day, especially during the menstrual phase of our cycle.
- Yoga: Exercise in all its forms is a great way to boost overall health and reduce menstrual cramps. Yoga is one practice that has been shown to cause significant reductions in period pain for women who participated in yoga classes for 12 weeks. Yoga poses also involve stretching, which can ease menstrual pain by helping the abdominal muscles lengthen and relax.
Cramps can be painful and disruptive, but they don’t have to be “just a fact of life.” These home remedies, quick-fix solutions, and long-term lifestyle changes can help reduce period pain.
Balancing our hormones is a great place to start. Hertime is an ally we want to have in our corner. Just one serving daily can help soothe cramps, level mood swings, ease bloating, and support normal cycles. It’s a solution worth trying for women of all ages and menstrual stages.
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