Menstrual cramps are medically termed as dysmenorrhea and are also casually referred to as ‘period pains.’ The pain is felt in the lower abdomen before the period begins and during it. There are two types of period pains. Primary dysmenorrhea occurs a day or two before the actual menstruation begins and there is no direct cause for this. Secondary dysmenorrhea occurs during the actual period and can be related to medical causes. In a survey of menstrual patterns and disorders among secondary school adolescents in Egypt, published by the National Institute of Health, dysmenorrhea was the most prevalent (93%) menstrual disorder in the sample, followed by PMS (65%), and abnormal cycle lengths (43%).
How to Reduce Such Cramps
While it is common practice to turn to a mild painkiller, such as ibuprofen and sometimes doctors also prescribe birth control pills to control cramps, here are some natural remedies that you can try.
- Pay attention to your diet: Shift to a low-fat diet and increase the quantity of vegetables you consume. You can also substitute fish for meat. Increasing your magnesium and calcium intake has been known to help menstrual pain. Magnesium improves muscle and nerve functioning and the recommended dosage is around 320 mg every day. The amount of calcium that should be consumed is 1,200 mg daily.
- Drink a soothing cup of tea: Scientific studies have proved the soothing effect of herbal tea on period pains. According to a study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, compounds found in chamomile tea bring relief to menstrual cramps. Besides flavonoids that fight bacteria, chamomile tea also contains glycine that relaxes muscles and reduces the occurrence of cramps. What’s more, the effects stay for up to two weeks.
- Take a hot water bottle to bed: In another bit of scientific proof, the application of heat over 40oC applied to the region where you feel pain can block the pain receptors in your nerves in the area. The application of a hot water bottle or an electric heating pad for up to an hour has been found to be as effective as painkillers in reducing pain. All you have to do is place the pad on your stomach or lower abdomen, and wait for 10 minutes to see if the pain reduces. Alternatively, you could take a hot water bath.
- Stretch yourself with yoga: Sometimes the best way to take out a cramp is by stretching your body. However, in order to avoid any sort of shock to your system, it is best to try a low-impact form of stretching, such as yoga. Yoga is a slow-moving set of poses that you need to hold for a few minutes. It provides a range of such poses that will stretch your muscles, make your joints supple, improve cardiovascular functioning and blood circulation. There are yoga poses that are specifically aimed at certain muscle groups such as the spine and lower abdomen.
- Finally, resort to a painkiller: When there is no natural remedy for menstruation related pain, you can finally opt for a painkiller. Look for nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). They are also sold under the generic name of ibuprofen. Take pain medication when the pain begins and make sure that you have eaten some food, since these medications can irritate the stomach. If the painkiller does not work, do not overdose yourself, consult a doctor instead.