Unfortunately for many women, painful periods are common. For some women, the pain may be a mild annoyance, while others may find that it disrupts their daily life entirely. If your menstrual pain is so bad that you miss school, work, or regular activities and struggle to get out of bed, it is important that you visit a doctor to determine what might be causing your pain and find the best way to address it. Here are some of the questions you may want to ask your doctor when discussing painful periods and dysmenorrhea.
Is My Menstrual Pain Abnormal?
Dysmenorrhea is the term given to painful periods, and there are two categories. Primary dysmenorrhea refers to menstrual cramps that are not caused by an underlying medical condition, and it is considered completely normal. It may begin in a woman’s teenage years and typically becomes less intense and frequent in adulthood.
In some cases, menstrual pain that is so severe that it affects your daily life could be caused by secondary dysmenorrhea, which means that the pain has an underlying medical cause that may require further diagnostic tests and treatment.
Why Is My Period So Painful?
If your menstrual cramping is caused by primary dysmenorrhea, it simply means that you have an excess of the hormones known as prostaglandins. These are the hormones that cause your uterus to contract during menstruation. When the uterus contracts too strongly, it may press against blood vessels nearby, which cuts off the oxygen supply to muscle tissue and causes pain.
As many as half of the women who get their period experience this condition.
Other women experience secondary dysmenorrhea, which is menstrual pain that may be traced to one of the following disorders.
One major cause of secondary dysmenorrhea is uterine fibroids. These noncancerous tumors may grow on the wall of the uterus and may lead to heavy bleeding and severe pain as well as other problems, such as an enlarged abdomen, anemia, and urinary incontinence.
Endometriosis is a condition where endometrial tissue grows outside the uterus, whether it is on the outer wall of the uterus, the ovaries, or another location in the pelvic region. When this tissue sheds each month just like the lining of the uterus, it can lead to symptoms such as excessive bleeding, severe pelvic pain, and infertility.
Another disorder that may cause a secondary dysmenorrhea is adenomyosis, which is caused when the tissue that usually grows on the walls of the uterus is growing in the muscle of the uterus instead. Some symptoms include strong menstrual cramps, heavy bleeding, and passing blood clots.
How Can I Get Relief From Menstrual Pain?
Your doctor might suggest that you try one of the following approaches to alleviate your menstrual pain.
One of the top treatments for primary dysmenorrhea is anti-inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen and naproxen. These Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications, reduce your body’s output of prostaglandins which helps to alleviate uterine contractions and pain.
In some cases, your doctor may prescribe hormonal contraceptives such as birth control pills, contraceptive patches or vaginal rings, or a progestin IUD. Women who take these medications for birth control typically experience less menstrual pain than those who do not, so your healthcare provider might suggest using these options even if contraception is not your goal.
When you are experiencing severe cramping, place a heating pad or a hot water bottle on your abdomen. If your menstrual pain is in your lower back, you can also use a heating pad there to get some relief. A warm bath or a hot towel might also help.
Avoiding Certain Foods
During menstruation, you may find that avoiding foods linked to bloating and water retention provides some relief by alleviating cramps and decreasing tension. These include caffeine, salty foods, fatty foods, carbonated beverages, and alcohol. Quitting smoking may also help make periods less painful.
Many women are turning to alternative therapies for relief from menstrual cramping. Yoga is one good option, thanks to its relaxing effects. A gentle massage of the abdomen, side, and back for around 20 minutes may also help reduce your menstrual pain. It can be particularly effective if it is used in conjunction with essential oils to gain aromatherapy benefits. For example, one study found a significant reduction in pain levels and duration of cramps in a group of women who received massages for their menstrual pain using a combination of lavender, marjoram, and clary sage oil.
Talk With Raleigh Gynecology & Wellness About Dysmenorrhea
Although menstruation is a part of life, you do not have to suffer from painful periods every month. If your menstrual pain is having a negative impact on your life, reach out to the knowledgeable team at Raleigh Gynecology & Wellness. We offer specialized care to help women of all ages in Raleigh and the surrounding area manage dysmenorrhea and other disorders.