Period cramps: Painful periods are a reality that thousands of women live with daily. Menstrual cramps or period cramps can literally make a woman immobile and non-functional. As Dr Suman Lal, Associate Director, Obstetrics and Gynecology, Max Hospital, Gurgaon, says, “Dysmenorrhea, another name for painful periods, affects a lot of women. Menstrual cramps, which cause throbbing, cramping pain in your lower abdomen, are the most common cause of the pain. Other signs and symptoms like headaches, nausea, diarrhoea and lower back discomfort could also be present. Premenstrual syndrome and period discomfort are distinct conditions (PMS).”
Causes of menstrual cramps
Period cramps can be primary and secondary. “Period pain caused by primary dysmenorrhea is the most prevalent type. Period pain that is not brought on by another illness. The main culprit is typically an excess of prostaglandins, which your uterus produces. These substances cause your uterus’ muscles to contract and relax, which results in cramps,” says Dr Suman Lal.
Sometimes women develop period cramps later in life, which is called secondary dysmenorrhea. Disorders like endometriosis and uterine fibroids that affect your uterus or other reproductive organs can lead to this. Over time, this form of pain frequently gets worse, says Dr Lal.
Period cramps medicine: To take or not to take
While a few judgemental souls immediately frown upon this, studies have shown that in some women, the extreme period pain they face is comparable to a heart attack. Medicines provide relief and at times, allow women to carry on with their daily duties – at home or the workplace – far more comfortably. But like any medicine, it’s essential to seek experts’ advice. Dr Lal says, “While the severity of menstrual cramps varies from woman to woman, taking over-the-counter painkillers could be dangerous. Studies show that some women have extreme period pain comparable to a heart attack. As a result, they are compelled to take medications to gain immediate pain relief. The negative consequences of painkillers include constipation, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, and stomach distress.”
Menstrual cramps relief: Food to avoid
In addition to using heat and consuming peppermint tea, you can also lessen cramping by avoiding particular foods like fried meals, milk and other dairy products, fatty foods, and caffeine as they can aggravate cramps, says Dr Lal.
How to get rid of menstrual cramps
Here are ways to alleviate menstruation cramps, as suggested by Dr Suman Lal:
Application of Heat: Heat can relax the muscles responsible for cramping. So menstrual cramps can be significantly reduced by using a heating pad on the back or abdomen or taking a warm bath.
Workout: Yes, you heard that right. While we want to stay curled up in bed during periods, exercising can work wonders. Exercise encourages the body’s natural production of endorphins, which work to reduce pain perception.
Stress reduction: Stress impacts our bodies in different ways, one of which is a decreased pain threshold. Practice deep breathing techniques, meditation, counselling, and yoga to lower stress levels.