Menstrual Cycles and Menstrual Cramps
Every woman experiences periods in their lifetime. At a certain age, it becomes such a routine that managing it is not a big deal at all. However, the menstrual cycle comes with menstrual cramps, which affects most women who experience periods. The severity of cramps differ from person to person, but in some cases, the pain can be debilitating and obstructive to our everyday lives. Let’s dive into what these cramps scientifically are, why they happen, and how we can alleviate them without medical treatments.
What is Dysmenorrhea?
Period cramps are medically referred to as dysmenorrhea. Dysmenorrhea is classified by pain and throbbing in the lower abdomen and uterus area that can travel to the lower back and legs, causing muscle aches. Period cramps are not only characterized by pain, but can induce other symptoms, like nausea, vomiting, headaches, and diarrhea. Women can experience these pains in the PMS period, in the days leading up to their period, and/or during the period. Menstrual cramps appear to be more prevalent in younger women: those who are younger than 30 years old, having their first period and/or those who started puberty earlier than normal. Irregular menstrual cycles, heavy bleeding, family history of intense menstrual cramp pain, and/or smoking can also induce higher levels of pain.
How to Alleviate Dysmenorrhea?
Fear not, as there are many ways to alleviate the pain. It just comes down to figuring out which methods suit you best! The most common remedy is taking over the counter medications as needed, in order to reduce the pain. Specifically, these are anti-inflammatory painkillers that can be taken every couple hours as needed. The most common types are Advil (ibuprofen) and Tylenol and are fairly inexpensive and easily accessible.
Applying heat to the area of discomfort has also been proven to be effective. This can be done in the form of heated pads, heated blankets, baths, and more. A study completed in 2018 asserted that heat therapy could be just as effective in alleviating pain as OTC medications and is overall less invasive. You can either purchase your own heating device and/or make your own heating pads at home.
Foods to Avoid During Menstruation
Avoiding certain types of foods can also be beneficial in relieving the pain from menstrual cramps. It is best to stay away from foods that naturally cause us to bloat and deal with water retention. Staying away from alcohol, fatty/oily foods, caffeine, salty foods, and carbonated drinks can mitigate the pain.
Other Methods for Pain Relief
Some women have also reported that massaging with essential oils around the abdomen, sides, and back have relieved their pain. Some useful oils mentioned are rose, peppermint, fennel, and lavender.
Rest assured that you are not alone! So many women deal with menstrual cramps that it is a fairly open topic of conversation. It is nothing to be embarrassed about. Try some of these new techniques and see if it positively impacts you at all!
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-Written by Kaila An