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What's causing your period pains and remedies you can try at home

Menstruation or period pain (dysmenorrhea) refers to cramping pain associated with the normal menstruation cycle. While most women only feel mild pains with periods, some women go through excruciating pain, enough to interfere with their daily activities.

Dysmenorrhea can be classifined as either primary or secondary dysmenorrhea.

Primary dysmenorrhea refers to period pain with no associated pelvic diseas(or visible pelvic pathology), affecting about half of adult women.

Secondary dysmenorrhea is period pain with/due to an underlying pelvic disease such as Pelvic Inflammatory Disease PIV or endometriosis.

It is important to differentiate it from Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) which often starts one to two weeks before your period starts and cause different symptoms from dysmenorrhea, such as weight gain, bloating, irritability, and fatigue.

Dysmenorrhea on the other hand presents as menstrual cramps, which are a throbbing, cramping pain in the lower abdomen. May also be associated with other symptoms, such as lower back pain, nausea, diarrhea, and headaches. 

What causes period pains:

For primary dysmenorrhea, it is still not clear why some women are predisposed to severe period pain than others, but inflammation and increased production of prostaglandins have long been suspected as the main culprits behind dysmenorrhea.

Prostaglandins are hormone like substances released by the body, and play a part in inflammation by regulating the amount of blood flow, muscle contraction as well as pain control.

Prostaglandins are normally secreted by the uterus, causing contraction and relaxation which helps clear the endometrium (uterine inner lining) as it prepares to shed.

In moderate quantities, they are a necessary part of the natural process, but excess prostaglandin secretion results in excessive muscle contraction, as well as decreased blood flow and oxygen supply to uterine muscles, causing pain.

For secondary dysmenorrhea, the risk usually increases with age and usually starts later in life (30-40 years), and are associated with specific underlying diseases. The pain may start before menstruation and persist long after.

How to relieve severe period pain:

The following methods work by relieving or improving at least one of these: inflammation, blocking the pain, increasing blood flow, limiting prostaglandin flow.

1.Heat- Abdominal heat patches can be found in pharmacies and online stores. A study in 2004, found that using heat patches was more effective than using over the counter medicines such as acetaminophen. Hot water bottles are an alternative to use when at home, and pharmaceutical patches are not available.

2.Medication- Best over the counter medicines to use are the Non Steroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen, which inhibit prostaglandin secretion and reduce inflammation. 

Another option is the use of contraceptives to block the menstrual cycle. These include pills and IUDs.

3.Exercise - A recent study found that women who did 30 minutes of aerobic exercise for 8 weeks, significantly reduced their period pain. These can include: biking to work, dancing, a 30 minutes walk, or any sport of your choice.

4.Essential oil massages- Researchers have also found that abdominal massage with some essential oils such as: lavender, sage, cinnamon and clove significantly reduced period pains especially when used in a blend of oils.

5.Yoga poses- in this study, researchers found that women who did just one hour yoga for 12 weeks showed significant improvements in their period pains.

6.Diet- several studies have shown that certain diets may help reduce period pain, a low fat vegetarian diet for example was shown to produce better outcome compared to other types of diet. 

Supplements with the following substances has also shown some promise in reducing period pains: calcium; vitamins B12, B 6, E; magnesium, zinc and fish oils.

Mild to moderate period pains are quite common and natural , outlined above are some of the ways to relieve and cope with them.

It is advisable to seek medical attention if: pain is so severe that it starts to interferes with work or school, pain starts before and persist after menstruation- as it may suggest an underlying disease as the cause, pain started after age 25 or it doesn’t go away after a couple of days.

Comprehensive Handbook: Obstetrics & Gynecology. Thomas Zheng. Edition, 2. Phoenix Medical Press, 2012.

Sources

https://www.healthline.com/health/womens-health/how-to-get-rid-of-cramps#supplements. Accessed on 16 September 2020.

https://helloclue.com/articles/cycle-a-z/period-cramps-101-why-menstrual-cramps-and-pain-occur-and-how-to-relieve. Accessed on 16 September 2020.

Content created and supplied by: Jaskier (via Opera News )

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