The severity of pain varies from woman to woman. In some it is mild and merely annoying, while in others it can be so severe that it makes it difficult or even impossible to do normal, everyday activities. Painful menstruation is one of the leading causes of time lost from school or work in women.
Causes of menstrual pain
There are two types of menstrual pain- primary dysmenorrhea and secondary dysmenorrhea.
Primary dysmenorrhea is the menstrual pain which occurs during the first menstrual period in a healthy young woman. In most cases it is not related to any underlying medical problem. It is caused by the increased production of hormone prostaglandin, produced in uterus.
Secondary dysmenorrhea occurs as a result of a underlying medical condition in women who normally did not have painful periods before. Possible reasons for secondary dysmenorrhea include endometriosis, fibroids, ovarian cysts, pelvic inflammatory disease, PMS, sexually transmitted disease, stress, anxiety, and use of a copper intrauterine device.
In case if secondary dysmenorrhea, it is important to determine its underlying cause and treat it.
Primary dysmenorrhea can be relieved with over-the-counter pain medications, like ibuprofen. Some doctors recommend starting ibuprofen one day before menstruation is expected to start and continue during first two or three days, because that is when the pain is most intense.
For those who do not want to take medications for menstrual pain, there are several things that can help.
Applying heat pads on the lower abdomen will relax the muscles and relieve pain, but it is important not to fall asleep with the pad because it may burn.
Gentle circular massage with fingertips also helps. Relaxation is important. Resting with feet slightly propped up or lying down on the side with legs bent in knees are the best positions for painful periods.
Warm shower or bath can also help relax, especially if using aromatherapy herbs.
As for eating habits, it is recommended to have light and small but frequent meals, consisting primarily of fruit, vegetables and whole grains. Alcohol, caffeine and other stimulants should be avoided. Warm herbal tea, especially chamomile, should be drank instead.
Relaxation techniques like meditation, yoga and breathing techniques can also be beneficial against menstrual pain.