Most women have some cramping with their periods. At least half of women have cramps that are bad enough to take medication. Almost a third of women have severe enough cramps that they’ve missed school, work or activities because of their cramps. That’s a lot of women in a lot of pain.
Fortunately, there are many things you can do to help ease and sometimes prevent the pain.
- Never smoke or vape. (Even between periods) All types of smoking cause more severe cramping because the uterus muscle is deprived of oxygen. Pain from oxygen deprivation is the same type of pain you get from a heart attack.
- Exercise most days. Regular exercise decreases period pain for most people. You need to do at least 20 minutes of vigorous exercise like running, swimming or biking, or 40 minutes of moderate exercise like walking most days of the week.
- Avoid alcohol. It makes pain worse.
- Eat nuts, seeds, fruit, vegetables, legumes and whole grains often so you have plenty of B vitamins, vitamin E, and magnesium.
- Be sure to get plenty of calcium and vitamin D from fortified soy milk, dairy products, salmon, green leafy vegetables, or eggs.
- If you don’t eat a healthy diet, consider taking supplements with vitamins E, B, D, calcium and magnesium until you start eating better. Vitamins help, but they are not a substitute for a Whole food plant-based diet.
- Eat fish twice weekly or eat nuts and seeds daily. (especially ground flax seeds or chia seeds) If you don’t eat these foods, talk to your doctor about taking an Omega-3 supplement.
- If you do eat well and still have cramps, sometimes taking a daily magnesium 250mg supplement will help. Ask your doctor. Too large a dose con give you diarrhea or muscle weakness.
- Consider acupuncture from a reliable practitioner
- Limit your caffeine intake to one cup a day since it can decrease your ability to absorb minerals like Calcium and Magnesium.
- Stress makes pain worse. Use meditation or relaxation techniques to feel better.
If the above suggestions don’t prevent cramps, try this:
- A warm bath with Epsom salts to relax muscles.
- Acupressure. can be done at home.
- Place a warm water bottle on your lower abdomen and relax listening to music
- Ibuprofen 400mg every 6 to eight hours, or Naproxen 220mg every 12 hours. Start the medication 24 hours before you expect your period to start. If you wait to start taking it after cramps have started, it will be more difficult to control the pain. Take these meds with food to avoid stomach pain.
When you need to see a doctor:
- If your periods keep you from school or work in spite of the above measures. You might benefit from taking oral contraceptive pills to decrease your pain. Your doctor may want to rule out endometriosis or an infection which are less common causes of period pain.
- If you have pelvic pain at other times in your cycle
- If you have pain with bowel movements or with urination
- If your periods are less than 3 weeks apart or continuous
- If your period skips more than 2 months
- If your periods are so heavy that you bleed through a tampon or pad in one or two hours.
- If you have discharge from your vagina other than bleeding during your period. (It is normal to have a small amount of brown odorless discharge the last day of your period when flow is light. It’s just dried blood.)
The above information is intended for people over the age of 13 with no ongoing medical issues.