Most women have, or will, experience period pain at some point in their life.
During your menstrual period, hormone-like substances (prostaglandins) involved in pain and inflammation trigger uterine muscle contractions, to help expel the uterus lining. Pain usually occurs as the level of prostaglandins increases in the lining of the uterus, just before menstruation starts.
While it’s a natural phenomenon, period pain (or dysmenorrhea) can affect work and general enjoyment of life.
Having a few strategies for dealing with the pain will allow you to better get on with work and play without hassle.
- Eat a healthy diet
Eating a healthy diet can reduce the severity of period pain. Incorporate lots of vegetables in your diet to reduce inflammation, and minimise fatty foods, alcohol, fizzy drinks, caffeine, and salty foods, as these encourage fluid retention. Substitute your morning coffee with herbal tea like cramp bark.
According to experts, a low-fat vegetarian diet might be the best option for managing period pain. Don’t cut out all fats though. Incorporate a moderate amount of good fats like those found in olive oil, avocado, walnuts, oily fish, and chia seeds. Good fats reduce inflammation in the body, and this in turn could help reduce period pain.
Magnesium has also been suggested to have pain-relieving properties. Look for ways to add more magnesium-rich foods to your diet, like almonds, spinach, bananas, and cacao. Ginger and turmeric could also be beneficial for alleviating period pain, so try adding these to your diet. Other herbs to consider include chamomile (as a tea), fennel extract, cinnamon, pycnogenol (a plant extract), and dill.
Be sure to check with your doctor before you make major dietary changes.
- Take supplements
Supplementation could help with period pain if you have any dietary deficiencies. Your doctor can advise you on whether you may need a supplement of magnesium, fish oil, vitamin B1, or vitamin B6, which evidence suggests could be helpful for alleviating period pain.
- Take pain-relief medication
Over-the-counter pain-relief medication may help you get fast, temporary relief from period pain. Look for products with ibuprofen (like Herron Blue).
- Get active
Getting active releases endorphins and can help reduce your period cramps and pain. Both aerobic exercise and stretching can have a positive impact on pain symptoms. Moderate forms of exercise like walking or swimming could also be beneficial.
While exercise is probably the last thing on your mind when you’re experiencing cramps, you can use it as part of your overall pain management strategy. For example, take pain-relief medication for immediate relief and exercise to boost endorphins in your body.
Stretching also boosts endorphin levels in the body, so you don’t have to resort to aerobic exercise in order to get the benefits. Stretches like yoga poses have been linked to lower pain levels, and they help you relax. In this video, yoga practitioner Adriene demonstrates some effective stretches for cramps and period pain.
If you have severe cramps, physical therapy could be helpful. A physical therapist can work with you to help loosen your psoas muscle and pelvic floor and relieve period pain.
- Use relaxation techniques
Excess stress can make period pain worse, so look for a way to destress and relax every day. Practice self-care and centre yourself throughout the day. Explore relaxation techniques like meditation, yoga, and breathing exercises. If you find yourself becoming stressed during the day, take a five-minute time out and do a few breathing exercises. These are easy to learn and you can do them anywhere.
- Take an Epsom salt bath
An Epsom salt bath can help relieve period pain by exposing your skin to heat and giving you a magnesium boost. Epsom salts are made from magnesium sulphate, and magnesium is linked to muscle and nerve relaxation. Run a hot bath and add two cups of Epsom salts. For best results, soak in the water for at least 15 minutes so your skin has time to absorb the magnesium.
- Apply heat
Studies show topical heat can have beneficial impacts for period pain. Rest in bed with a heat pack, concentrating on the lower abdominal area and your lower back. You can use a heating pad, hot water bottle, or even a hot towel.
- Quit smoking
If you’re a smoker, giving it up could help with period pain. Smoking is associated with severe cramps and premenstrual symptoms, so period pain is yet another reason to quit for good. Find a support network, keep a diary to deal with cravings, and use tools like nicotine patches to make the transition easier.
Disclaimer: The Herron blog is interested in general community wellbeing and information, and does not imply that Herron products should be used for serious ailments without the advice or recommendation from your healthcare practitioner.All information presented on the Herron website is meant for general knowledge and never meant as a diagnosis of prescription. Please always contact your doctor for health related matters.