A lot of women can relate to menstrual pain or dysmenorrhea because it is quite common. It usually occurs just before or during a woman’s menstrual cycle. Many women experience menstrual cramps at varying degrees. Some individuals have severe menstrual cramps, and the discomforts they feel can even interrupt their daily activities.
Menstrual cramps occur primarily because of the release of prostaglandins, which are chemicals made by the lining of the uterus. When the body releases prostaglandins, it can trigger smooth muscle contraction. Since a woman’s uterus is a muscle, it is capable of relaxing and contracting. During your period, it can contract more strongly thereby causing cramp-like pain. Prostaglandin levels are usually high during the start of a woman’s period, but levels decrease during menstruation, which explains why pain tends to diminish after the first few days of menstruation.
There are two types of dysmenorrhea, and it basically classified due to underlying causes. Primary dysmenorrhea is otherwise known as common menstrual cramps, and it occurs in the absence of organic disease. It usually occurs as soon as a woman gets her period, and the episodes may be less painful as a woman grows older. Secondary dysmenorrhea on the other hand, is caused by a disorder in the woman’s reproductive organs. Oftentimes, it begins earlier during the menstrual cycle, and may last longer than the typical menstrual cramps. The causes of secondary dysmenorrhea include endometriosis, fibroids, adenomyosis, pelvic inflammatory disease, and sometimes the use of intrauterine device or IUD.
Symptoms of dysmenorrhea may include lower abdominal cramps that may radiate to the lower back and thighs, a bloated feeling, nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, headache and dizziness. The symptoms can cause various discomforts for a woman, but there are ways that can be taken in order to reduce the discomfort, or even improve your overall health.
Exercise is recommended because it not only makes you feel better, but it can lead to the increased release of endorphins, which are the body’s natural painkillers. It may also help if a woman gets enough rest because it can make the body less vulnerable to pain. Stress relieving activities may also help decrease pain. An effleurage or light massage can be soothing, while yoga or meditation, work best for some women.
A woman also needs to be mindful of her diet. Try to avoid eating salty foods a few days before your period starts. Do not eat pretzels, potato chips, luncheon meat, hams, and other food items that contain too much salt. This is essential in reducing bloated feelings. Menstrual cramps may also be relieved, if you avoid foods that contain caffeine. Lifestyle changes like avoiding smoking and alcohol can also be helpful. Taking vitamin B1 or magnesium supplements may also help relieve pain, but it cannot prevent the occurrence.
There are women who find relief in taking warm baths. You may also apply heat to the abdomen using a heating pad, or a hot water bottle. If you have lower back pain, applying heat to the area may also provide some relief. Aside from promoting relief, applying heat may also relax muscle tension. However, heat application should only be done if a woman is menstruating. Applying heat for other abdominal discomforts may not be safe. In particular, applying heat to the abdomen of individuals with appendicitis may cause a ruptured appendix.
Certain medications may also be helpful in relieving the symptoms. Over the counter medications like NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) can be used for pain relief. They work by preventing the body from making prostaglandins, and it is best taken the moment you feel pain, or when you feel signs of your period. However, it is contraindicated for individuals with bleeding and stomach disorders, liver damage or ulcers. It is then best to discuss with your doctor your treatment options, so that you can have the treatment that’s right for you. Some doctors recommend using a low-dose birth control pill to prevent ovulation, thus reducing prostaglandin production.
Menstrual pain occurs in many individuals. While a lot of women find relief through home remedies and over the counter medication, some women may need further treatment. If the pain is unusual and it does not subside, contact your health care provider. This is necessary because identifying the cause is the initial step to a successful treatment.
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