By KARLA WALSH
Period symptoms vary from woman to woman, but cramps is a classic harbinger of that special monthly time.
While some luckier ladies might just feel an achiness or slight tension in their backs or abdomen at the onset of their periods, other women can get menstrual cramps so bad their lives are disrupted by the pain.
“Menstrual cramps closer to the time of your bleeding, and during, is because of a rise in a hormone-like chemical called prostaglandins,” says Ja Hyun Shin, MD, an assistant professor at the Department of Women’s Health and Obstetrics & Gynecology at Albert Einstein College of Medicine and the director of the Pelvic Pain Clinic at Montefiore Health System in Bronx, New York. “This substance causes a contraction type of pain because it is doing exactly that — helping to contract and squeeze out your uterine lining which is your menstrual bleeding.”
Since your uterus is essentially one large, pear-shaped muscle, those pangs can radiate through the entire lower back and belly area, explains Sherry A. Ross, MD, a women’s health expert in Santa Monica, California and the author of She-ology: The Definitive Guide to Women’s Intimate Health. Period.
“Cramps tend to be more intense during the first day or two of the period and are a normal part of the period cycle,” Ross says.
These cramps shouldn’t be so severe that they impact your daily habits or your quality of life, both experts agree. If they do verge on the debilitating side — and the seven at-home fixes below don’t help — explain your symptoms to your doctor. This could be a sign of something larger such as endometriosis, adenomyosis, fibroids, or an infection.
. POP AN ANTI-INFLAMMATORY
NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs)
which you can find by the names Aleve, Motrin, Advil, Tylenol, or Ibuprofen, should help with the discomfort.
“These work great for period cramps,” Ross says. “The feeling of pain is caused by increased levels of prostaglandins, which make the uterus contract. NSAIDs block the action of prostaglandins and decrease the pain brought on by period cramps.”
Moderate aerobic exercise is proven to help alleviate period pain, according to research published in the Journal of Education and Health Promotion. It’s beneficial to get your blood circulating with light exercise, such as yoga or a brisk walk, Shin suggests.
“Exercise helps relieve cramps in a number of ways. It stimulates feel-good endorphins, builds tolerance to pain and discomfort, and reduces stress,” Ross says.
3. STAY HYDRATED
Drink plenty of H2O and cut back on alcohol and caffeine, Shin adds, which can dehydrate your cells.
“Drinking warm water helps relax the uterine muscles,” Ross says. “Adding ginger to hot water is another useful remedy.”
Incorporating water-rich foods to your menu can’t hurt, either. Try fresh produce such as berries, celery, cucumbers, eggplant, lettuce, oranges, watermelon, or zucchini.
5. CONSUME MORE CALCIUM
7. Take birth control