If you’re a woman, it’s likely you’ve experienced the pain of period cramps at least once in your life. It’s one of the most common -- and most annoying -- symptoms of "that time of the month." Some women have mild cramps, while others find themselves bedridden for the duration of their period. Cramps are caused by your womb contracting. When it contracts too hard, it can cut off oxygen to your uterus, causing pain. Luckily, there are many things you can do to help relieve the pain and successfully fight period cramps.
Lowering your fat intake and upping your servings of veggies can help relieve period cramps. Low-fat diets can decrease the inflammation in your body, and vegetables provide a lot of your essential vitamins and minerals. Making sure you consume a balanced diet full of nutritional choices can reduce your pain. Plus, a healthy diet is a good idea in general.
I hear you now: Exercise? I can’t even get up! While it’s true that in some cases period pain can be overwhelming, exercise can help. Exercising helps improve your blood flow and causes your body to produce endorphins, which are natural mood-boosters. Plus, endorphins can counteract prostaglandins, hormones that can trigger inflammation and pain responses in the body, and exacerbate inflammation and pain. If you can, try to exercise three to four days a week, whether you’re on your period or not. You’re sure to see an improvement in your menstrual pain.
A heating pad or patch can help relieve cramping muscles. Even filling a bottle with warm water and putting it against your stomach can help! Studies have shown that heat can be as effective as a painkiller in easing cramps and encouraging muscle relaxation, and most people experience relief in 90 minutes or less. There are plenty of over-the-counter heating pads, patches, and creams available, so try a few and see if they work for you!
Several studies have shown acupuncture and acupressure can help relieve the pain of menstrual cramps. This traditional Chinese medicine works by sticking small needles into the skin to stimulate or relax the body. Licensed acupuncturists encourage stronger blood flow to your internal organs, which can help ease the pain. Acupuncture is also thought to be anti-inflammatory, which reduces the cause of cramping pain in the first place. While it may not work for everyone, acupuncture could be worth a shot!
Most people reach for coffee or soda to get through their day, but when you have period cramps, this can be a bad idea. Caffeine is a vasoconstrictor, meaning it makes your blood vessels tighten. This can lower the amount of oxygen reaching your uterus, and have the same impact as a sharp cramp. You’ll feel pain and bloat, and it may make your symptoms worse. If you absolutely must have caffeine, try switching to tea. The lower caffeine level means the drink will have a less potent effect on your uterus. Some non-caffeinated herbal teas also have pain-relieving properties.
Drinking plenty of water can help relieve the pain of period cramps by easing bloating. If you tend to get diarrhea during your period, it’s especially important to drink water. Being dehydrated can make period pain intensify. Your body needs water to function, so try to drink six to eight glasses a day. If you don’t like plain water, infuse it with fruit, add some lemon or mint, or drink pre-flavored waters. You can also try some low-sodium broth. There are many ways to increase your fluid intake.
Just like exercise, orgasms release endorphins that can help relieve pain. Not only that, orgasms help to relax your uterus and increase blood flow, which can ease your cramps. The feel-good effect of this reaction can provide instant relief and relaxation and may even help you sleep. Everyone knows that a good night’s sleep is a great way to feel better in the morning.
Studies have shown that supplementing your diet with fish oil, B1, and magnesium can help relieve menstrual cramp pain. As with all supplements, you’ll want to talk to your doctor before taking them to make sure you’re getting the right amount. Magnesium helps regulate nerve and muscle function, which can reduce the severity of your cramps. Fish oil and B1, taken both separately and together, have been shown to lessen pain. They also reduce the length of time you feel pain.
If you’re finding that nothing else is working, an over-the-counter painkiller is still a good option for reducing cramp pain. Painkillers also work well in conjunction with the home remedies mentioned above. Because everyone’s pain is different, no one thing will work for every person. We recommend checking with your doctor before beginning to take painkillers with any regularity. Also make sure to check the maximum dosage on your painkillers; too much can hurt your liver and kidneys.
Massages can be a fantastic way to relieve pain! Try a gentle massage with pain-relieving essential oils -- always diluted -- like lavender or sage. If you receive or give yourself a gentle massage before and during your period, you may experience pain relief and reduce your time in pain. Studies have shown your cramps and pain can be cut nearly in half. Remember, if you’re experiencing severe pain with no relief, it’s important to see your physician immediately. However, trying these tips first can reduce the duration of your discomfort.
This site offers information designed for educational purposes only. You should not rely on any information on this site as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, treatment, or as a substitute for, professional counseling care, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other healthcare professional.