Period cramps can be painful, but various remedies can provide relief. Heat pads, supplements, and over-the-counter pain relief may help. If these are not effective, a doctor may prescribe treatment. They may also recommend tests to rule out an underlying condition, such as endometriosis.
Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) is an umbrella term for a group of symptoms that a person may experience up to
It also reports that more than 90% of people who menstruate experience PMS symptoms, such as:
- mood changes
Dysmenorrhea is a medical term for frequent, painful cramping during a period. Research suggests that 16–90% of people who menstruate experience it, and 29% describe the pain as severe.
Painful periods are common, and the pain can range from dull but bothersome to so severe that it disrupts daily life. Usually, the pain is present in the lower abdomen and lower back.
In a later section, we describe natural remedies, home care techniques, and over-the-counter and prescription treatments for painful period cramps.
Menstruation typically occurs roughly every
During menstruation, chemicals in the body called prostaglandins prompt the muscles of the womb to contract irregularly.
This motion encourages the womb to expel the lining of tissue that builds up in preparation for pregnancy, as well as menstrual blood.
When the womb contracts, this can cause cramps or throbbing pains in the lower belly a day or two before a period starts. The cramps tend to last for a few days. Everyone who menstruates experiences these contractions. For some people they are not noticeable, for others they cause severe discomfort.
Period pain is usually worse in people younger than
When a person experiences period pain, it may or may not stem from a health problem.
“Primary dysmenorrhea” is lower abdominal pain during the menstrual cycle that does not relate to another health condition. “Secondary dysmenorrhea” is period pain that stems from a health problem, such as endometriosis, uterine fibroids, or pelvic inflammatory disease.
Signs of irregular menstrual pain
Signs and symptoms that period pain may require further investigation include:
- the pain not improving, even after over-the-counter pain relief treatment
- pain that disrupts daily life
- very heavy bleeding and clotting
Anyone who experiences any of these symptoms should contact a doctor or another healthcare professional as soon as possible.
This condition is most common in people aged
Endometriosis causes tissues similar to the lining of the womb to grow elsewhere, such as on the fallopian tubes and ovaries. This can cause symptoms
Many people who menstruate experience painful cramps, and these approaches might help:
- Exercise: Exercise can help
reduce the painof period cramps by lowering levels of beta-endorphins and promoting blood circulation in the pelvis. Even regular, brisk walking may make a difference in menstrual pain, particularly if a person gets this type of exercise at the beginning of their period.
Researchconfirms that heat can help reduce period pain. A person might use a hot water bottle or a heating pad or take a hot bath, when possible.
- Acupuncture: This involves a trained practitioner inserting fine needles in specific areas to stimulate the nervous system and relieve pain.
Evidenceshows that it may help ease period pain.
Limited evidencesuggests that some plant-based remedies may help relieve period cramps.
The discomfort of period cramps can vary over time and from person to person. Many people benefit from taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), which are available over the counter.
These drugs can ease period pain and lower levels of prostaglandins. However, confirming their effectiveness and safety requires further research.
If other treatments and approaches do not provide relief, a doctor may prescribe:
- Hormonal birth control: These pills thin the lining of the womb and reduce the production of prostaglandins.
- Glyceryl trinitrate patches: This medication increases nitric oxide levels, promoting muscle relaxation and reducing period pain — but it may result in severe headaches.
- Calcium channel blockers: These medications can also relax muscles. Flushing, headaches, and an increased heart rate are possible side effects.
Learn about the most common side effects of birth control pills here.
Below, find answers to some common questions about painful cramps before or during a period:
Are any foods good for period cramps?
Learn more about what to eat during a period here.
What dietary supplements help period cramps?
Learn more about vitamins and supplements here.
Can essential oils help period cramps?
Some essential oils may help ease menstrual pain. A
Many people who get menstrual periods have associated pain or discomfort. This often stems from cramping, painful muscle contractions that help the body shed the uterine lining.
The pain can be intense and disrupt daily activities. A person may find relief from self-care techniques, such as applying heat, changing the diet, and doing gentle exercise. Taking NSAIDs and having acupuncture may also help. If these approaches are ineffective, contact a doctor about prescription medications.