What are Cramps?
Menstrual camps are throbbing pains in the lower abdomen and often occur in woman when approaching or on their period. Cramps are caused by uterus contractions which is a normal part of a woman’s cycle allowing the uterus to shed its lining. If contractions are strong, they compress blood vessels and limit oxygen flow to the uterus muscle which causes pain.
Ways to Soothe Period Cramps
Take a Safe Painkiller
The most recommended painkiller medicines are ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) or naproxen (Aleve). These painkillers will calm period pains due to non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications reducing the amount of prostaglandins in the body. Taking the pill, the day before your period should help you control the pain. You should check with your doctor to see if this is a healthy decision, especially if you have bleeding, stomach, or kidney issues.
Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS)
This method allows your body to move electricity through it by electrode pads delivering low-voltage electrical currents to the affected area. These currents are sent to the muscles and sensory nerves, stimulating muscle contraction and relieving muscle pains. Professionals believe TENS works because it enlarges blood vessels and increases blood flow. The pulses send pain signals to the brain, encouraging your body to send higher levels of endorphins and encephalins which are pain-killing chemicals.
Movement can help ease cramps due to endorphins being released which reduces pain. These painrelieving chemicals will not be released until you hit a certain threshold of intensity. Focus on movements that ease pains such as yoga positions or add ankle weights to intensify a walk. Exercise also helps burn the prostaglandins or chemicals released during a menstruation that cause muscle contraction. Exercise is also a great way to reduce stress which also affects how you feel pain.
Heat allows for the muscles in your uterus to relax. Heat naturally increases blood flow to the location of pain, which relaxes the muscles. You can reduce pain by heating pads, heated water bottles, and heated patches. Applying heat to your lower abdomen is the best approach to relieve period pain. Keeping the heating pad on for 15 to 20 minutes will allow you to see the best results. It is recommended to always begin at the lowest heat setting, ensure you do not fall asleep with the heating pad, and never apply it to broken skin.
Many people find that deep breathing can relieve cramps. This stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, which calms down the pain signals in your body. The critical thing deep breathing does is keep you distracted, which turns you away from the cramps themselves. Let your stomach fully expand as you take a long breath and slowly exhale. You can repeat these breaths if needed.
Vitamins and Minerals
Having a healthy diet is another way to relieve cramps due to some vitamins and minerals being suggested to help reduce period pain. Some evidence shows that thiamin and magnesium are essential for women on periods because they relax the uterus's smooth muscle by reducing prostaglandins which cause cramps. Foods often are rich in these minerals, such as Kale, Spinach, Nuts/Seeds, Oranges, Avocados, and much more. Another vitamin that can help is vitamin E. Taking vitamin E 500IU daily the two days before your period and continuing for the first three days of bleeding can be helpful.
Some teas have been proven to reduce bloating and discomfort during your period. Chamomile tea has anti-spasmodic properties, which can calm cramps. Apigenin can be found in chamomile, which helps stimulate neurotransmitters and hormones to soothe the over-firing sympathetic nervous system. This tea also helps reduce the sensation of pain through the COX enzymes. Different teas can also ease cramps, such as ginger, fennel, cinnamon, peppermint, and red raspberry leaf tea.
If these options are ineffective, you can talk to your physician about prescription medications that can help with symptoms.
Connected Health, located in Wexford, PA offers concierge primary care that is accessible, personalized, and proactive. Everyone’s healthcare journey is different. Through our personalized approach, we firmly believe that having high-touch, relationship-based medical care saves patients time and money while improving their health. Connected Health is accepting new patients. To schedule a consultation, please call 724-933-4305.