A person may require pain medications during their period to relieve cramping. Possible medications for period cramps include aspirin, ibuprofen, and prescription pain relievers.

Sometimes, people find managing their diet, taking medication, and keeping active help reduce the severity of their period cramps.

There are also alternative therapies, such as food supplements or plant-based therapies, which some brands market to help relieve period cramps. However, they are not subject to regulation by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

People who have periods should speak with a doctor for advice on treating period cramps. Read more to learn about the best pain medications for this type of pain.

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The medical term for period cramps is dysmenorrhea. Several medications can help with period cramps, including over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription options.

OTC medicines

In most people, these OTC medications are effective for treating period pain:

Taking pain relief 1–2 days before a period begins and for the first 2–3 days of bleeding should help alleviate some painful cramps.

Prescription medicines for period cramps

If someone has endometriosis that is contributing to period cramps, or their cramps are not getting any better after taking OTC treatments, they may need alternative treatments.

These could include prescription pain relievers or using an intrauterine device (IUD).

Oral contraceptive pills (OCPs) can help reduce the severity of period cramps in some people. However, more evidence is necessary to support this idea, as current studies tend to be quite small.

Generally, contraceptive pills help reduce period pain by reducing prostaglandins, which are compounds that help regulate bodily functions. Prostaglandins can influence the perception of pain, and while the body makes these naturally, there are artificial versions in some medicines.

Progestin-only pills (POPs) are a specific type of OCP that may be more effective for period pain from endometriosis or fibroids — tumors in the walls of the uterus — rather than painful muscle contractions through menstruating.

Additionally, POPs can prevent ovulation from happening and help keep the lining of the uterus thin.

Aside from taking pain relief medications, there are several methods a person can follow to help with their period pain. They include:

Eating a nutritious diet

One 2018 study found a link between eating less nutritious snacks and a higher risk of period cramps. Snacks that contributed to period pain tended to include high levels of sugar, salt, and added fat.

For this reason, focusing on eating a nutritious and balanced diet could form a significant part of period pain management.

Applying heat

People with period pain may find applying heat reduces cramping and alleviates some discomfort. However, heat may be less effective at reducing menstrual pain exacerbated by endometriosis or other conditions.

It is important to also consider that current evidence investigating heat’s effects on period cramps is weak and more research is necessary. So if possible, a person should try OTC pain relievers first.


Research focusing on the effect of exercise on period cramps is generally low quality, so it can be difficult to draw conclusions from the data.

However, researchers generally agree that exercise can reduce period cramps if a person does around 45–60 minutes of physical activity three times a week. However, more studies are necessary to support this claim.

Research around the effect of acupuncture on exercise is very mixed and tends to be of low quality.

For that reason, people should always speak with their doctor before trying any alternative therapies for period pain.

If heavy bleeding accompanies period pain to the point a person is experiencing anemia and fatigue, a doctor may refer them for endometrial ablation.

Endometrial ablation is a very serious procedure that involves destroying the endometrium tissue to help reduce symptoms. Therefore, it is unsuitable for people who are or wish to become pregnant.

Period pain is very common. Many people feel pain before or during their menstrual cycle.

In fact, more than half of individuals report having period pain for about 1–2 days each month.

While some period pain is a typical part of menstruation, it is important for a person to consult a doctor if the pain is affecting their quality of life and well-being.

A person should always speak with a doctor if OTC medicines are not reducing their period cramps, as this could be a sign of an underlying health problem.

They should also seek medical help if the pain is spreading to other areas, such as the back and legs, or if the pain causes them concern.

The best pain medications include a range of OTC pain relievers, including ibuprofen.

When OTC treatments are ineffective, a person should speak with their doctor about stronger prescription options or other treatments, such as getting an IUD.

In instances of severe cramping that accompanies additional symptoms, such as heavy bleeding, a doctor may suggest endometrial ablation. However, this is a serious procedure that is unsuitable for those who are or plan on becoming pregnant.

Most of the time, mild period pain is a typical part of menstruation. However, if the pain seriously affects a person’s quality of life, they should speak with a doctor.