How to Relieve Period Cramps and Menstrual Pain
Exercise and stretching can help reduce the severity of menstrual cramps.
The pain and inflammation during your menstrual cycle is mainly caused by pain producing chemicals called prostaglandins, and there are several types of pains you can experience during your period. 1,2 Depending on the severity, such pains can interfere with work, school, and social activities. It’s great to know that you have many options for reducing your pain, so see what works best for you! Just remember: pain is manageable—so it shouldn’t get in the way of you doing the things you enjoy.
Remember: pain is manageable—so it shouldn’t get in the way of you doing the things you enjoy.
What can help reduce the pain of menstrual cramps?
Adjust Your Diet
- Maintain a healthy diet low in processed sugars and fatty foods.
- Drink plenty of water to prevent your body from holding onto water and therefore feeling bloated.3
Exercise & Stretching
- There is a perception that exercise is inappropriate when experiencing menstrual pain, however exercise actually increases blood flow and promotes the release of mood-boosting hormones called endorphins.4 Exercise and stretching have shown to be effective in reducing the severity of menstrual cramp pain as well.5
- If you are prone to painful menstrual cramps, exercising 3-4 times a week promotes overall body health and may help with menstrual pains.6
- Don’t feel guilty about treating yourself! Massage with aromatic oils has been shown to provide relief and shorten the duration of menstrual pain.7 Go ahead and give it a try with lavender, clary sage, or marjoram oil.
- Heat therapy works by moving past skin layers and directly acting on muscles thereby relaxing them and easing the pain.8 Continuous, low-level topical heat has been shown to provide relief of menstrual pain and cramping in women.9 Many forms of heat therapy are available in stores or at your pharmacy including heat patches, heat pads, and hot water bottles.6
Over-the-Counter Pain Relief Medicines
- Moderate use of over-the-counter pain relievers is an effective method for relieving menstrual pain.1,2
- Ibuprofen targets pain at the source and is shown to provide powerful relief of your tough menstrual cramps, headache, and backache. Consider Advil® Liqui-Gels® or Advil® Extra Strength Liqui-Gels®.
For more information about periods and menstrual pain, visit the menstrual pain section of our website.
- Hall JE. Menstrual Disorders and Pelvic Pain. In: Kasper D, Fauci A, Hauser S, Longo D, Jameson J, Loscalzo J. eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19e. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill; 2015. http://accessmedicine.mhmedical.com/content.aspx?bookid=1130&Sectionid=7 . Accessed January 29, 2017.
- Harada T. Dysmenorrhea and Endometriosis in Young Women. Yonago Acta Medica. 2013;56(4):81-84.
- “Home Remedies for Menstrual Cramps.” http://www.healthline.com/health-slideshow/menstrual-cramp-remedies#2. Accessed January 29, 2017.
- Doheny, K. “10 Ways to Relieve Period Cramps.” https://www.everydayhealth.com/treatment/womens-health/ways-to-relieve-period-cramps/. Accessed January 29, 2017.
- Vaziri F, Hoseini A, Kamali F, Abdali K, Hadianfard M, Sayadi M. Comparing the effects of aerobic and stretching exercises on the intensity of primary dysmenorrhea in the students of universities of bushehr. J Family Reprod Health. 2015; 9(1): 23-8.
- Bachai, S. “Menstrual Cramps: 6 Home Remedies.” http://www.medicaldaily.com/menstrual-cramps-6-home-remedies-247558. Accessed January 29, 2017.
- Ou MC, Hsu TF, Lai AC, Lin YT, Lin CC. Pain relief assessment by aromatic essential oil massage on outpatients with primary dysmenorrhea: a randomized, double-blind clinical trial. J Obstet Gynaecol Res. 2012; 38(5): 817-22.
- Nadler SF, Steiner DJ, Erasala GN, Hengehold DA, Hinkle RT, Goodale MB, Abeln SB, Weingand KW. Don’t let cramps hold you back. ThermaCare Menstrual Patches relieve menstrual-cramp pain, providing soothing heat to relax muscles and ease the pain. Spine. 2002; 27(10).
- Akin M, Price W, Rodriguez G, Erasala G, Hurley G, Smith RP. Continuous, Low-Level, Topic Heat Wrap Therapy as Compared to Acetaminophen for Primary Dysmenorrhea. The Journal of Reproductive Medicine. 2004; 49(9): 739-745.
- Chan, W. Y., Dawood, M. Y. and Fuchs, F.. "Relief of dysmenorrhea with the prostaglandin synthetase inhibitor ibuprofen: effect on prostaglandin levels in menstrual fluid." American journal of obstetrics and gynecology 135.1 (1979): 102-108.
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