Period pain is the type of thing that you can’t adequately describe to someone who has never experienced it. For some, it is a tiny cramp and a slight feeling of nausea that passes within an hour or so. For others, who are not so fortunate, the pain is a bone-deep, wrenching, draining ache that feels as though a Samurai has taken up residence in your lower belly and is practicing his Katana moves. Not fun.
If you fall into the second category, chances are you are looking for a solution to knock that pain on the head so you can get on with your normal routine. The following treatments will give you a choice of methods to treat period pain and bring you the quickest relief in the shortest period (pardon the pun!) of time.
What causes period pain?
Period pain can be caused by a variety of factors. You may have a hormonal imbalance that causes your symptoms to worsen. Often, an excess of estrogen can cause period pain symptoms to intensify. Whatever the reason for your period pain, it’s important to find the cause so you can prevent or at least reduce the symptoms to a manageable level. You can discuss your symptoms with your doctor or pharmacist to work out the best pain reduction plan.
Treatments for period pain
Once you have identified the possible causes of period pain, the next step is to find the best pain relief that works for you. Often period pain can appear suddenly, without any warning signals. It’s important to have some of these remedies on hand so you don’t get caught out without any pain relief when you need it most.
Over-the-counter pain relief
Often the fastest method of pain relief involves taking an over-the-counter pain medication. There are various brands of paracetamol, aspirin and ibuprofen that will, in most cases, bring you some rapid relief. If your cramps are intense or more severe than usual, you may need a stronger medication. There are many types of over-the-counter pain relief medications but some of the stronger medications will require a prescription from your doctor. If you are unsure about the level of pain medication you require, talk to your doctor or pharmacist about the best medications for pain relief and their correct dosage.
Vitamins and Supplements
A deficiency in Iron can make you feel weak and lethargic. A deficiency in magnesium can make you more prone to muscle cramps and spasms. Supplements such as Vitamin B6, Vitamin E, Iron, Magnesium, Calcium and Evening Primrose Oil can provide relief through redressing any vitamin and mineral deficiencies that you may have, though they can take a little longer to take effect than a quick dose of pain medication.
Vitamins and supplements can assist you by topping up the existing levels of deficiency, making you more resilient when it comes to period pain. You can find specially formulated supplements designed to treat the symptoms of period pain and there is likely to be a brand or formula you will find that works best for you. Some of these supplements contain vitamins, minerals and even herbs that are known to balance hormonal disruptions and alleviate PMS and period pain symptoms. Be sure to check the interactions of all ingredients of your supplements with any medications that you may be taking to make sure you avoid any unwanted side effects.
This sounds strange to those who have not experienced the almost instantaneous relief that chocolate can bring to period pain. Some say it’s psychological, yet others will jump at the chance to eat chocolate for medicinal purposes. But how effective is it?
Chocolate contains magnesium, a mineral that can alleviate cramps and muscle spasms. If you are concerned about the sugar and fat content of chocolate, other sources of the mineral include nuts, beans, brown rice and a variety of green leafy vegetables.
Another advantage of chocolate is that it releases endorphins in the body, creating a ‘feel good’ sensation that counteracts the pain. Chocolate not only soothes the pain of period cramps, but also tastes delicious. If this method of pain relief doesn’t work for you, at least you have something tasty to munch during your next Netflix binge.
If you take the pill, it’s possible that the daily dose will act to regulate your menstrual cycle and reduce the intensity of period pain. Remember, the pill affects your hormones and the dosage and type of pill can have an effect on your general well-being. It’s important to find out which pill is the one that works with your body. One advantage of the pill is that it may reduce heavy bleeding and cramps during the menstrual cycle. If this is not the case, or you are unsure about how the pill can help you with period pain, talk to your doctor or pharmacist.
Gentle massage with essential oils
You can alleviate the pain of menstrual cramps by gentle massage in a circular motion in the area underneath your belly button. This is a pressure point for relieving period pain, however, make sure that you don’t push too hard. Everyone’s body is different so find the level of pressure that works for you. Essential oils can heighten the experience and provide an extra level of relaxation. Breathe deeply as you massage the area and allow the gentle pressure and the essential oils work their magic.
Essential oils that may help with period pain include:
Ylang ylang – for relieving anxiety and mood swings and promoting a feeling of calm
Lavender – anxiety, stress and headache symptoms
Peppermint – a soothing essential oil for pain and inflammation
Geranium and marjoram – relief from cramps and painful periods
There is a range of herbal teas that can alleviate the pain of menstrual cramps. One of the best teas to try is chamomile and is widely known for its relaxation properties. Chamomile tea acts as a natural muscle relaxant and can help with the muscle spasms and cramps associated with period pain.
Other teas that may assist with period pain and PMS symptoms:
Ginseng – menstrual cramps and stomach problems
Ginger – inflammation, nausea, stomach cramps and pain
Lemon balm – period pain, bloating, headaches and anxiety
Sage – stomach cramps, gas, bloating and digestive issues
The humble hot water bottle can be a powerful weapon in your war against menstrual pain. The heat from a hot water bottle or heating pad works to increase blood flow and dilate the blood vessels, providing relief from spasms and cramping.
Castor oil packs
Castor oil has been a popular old-world remedy for everything from constipation to inducing labour. The advantage of castor oil is that it is readily available – you may already have some in your bathroom cabinet! Make sure you check your castor oil’s use-by date, and if in doubt, buy a new bottle just to be sure.
To make a castor oil pack, simply apply castor oil to one side of a flannel cloth – this is the side that you will place on your skin. Lay down some towels before lying down and placing the pack over your lower belly, covering the cloth, or “pack” with a heating pad. Be sure to separate the pad from coming into direct contact with the castor oil by using cling film to secure the cloth to your skin before applying heat.
Castor oil can assist with circulation and may promote healing and a much-needed boost to the immune system. Using a castor oil pack can be messy, and it may be the last thing you want to do when you are feeling irritable and cranky, however, it may be the method that brings you relief, so it could be worth a try. If in doubt, check with your medical practitioner to see if a castor oil pack is a good solution for your menstrual cramps.
Important note: Castor oil is nearly impossible to wash out of clothing! Make sure you only use older towels and a cloth for this purpose as castor oil is notoriously difficult to remove.
Foods to avoid
There are some foods that you should not eat if you experience pain during your menstrual cycle. Salty foods can act to make bloating worse, increasing the discomfort of water retention. Avoid foods with a high sodium content and make sure you increase your water intake to combat fluid retention.
Processed meats and junk food can cause inflammation, due to their free radical content from trans fats, which can cause oxidative stress on the body, which can make period pain symptoms worse. The lactose content in dairy can cause bloating and digestion issues and may increase the intensity of your cramps.
Avoid coffee, as it can cause headaches and constricts the blood vessels in body, causing pain symptoms to intensify. Coffee can also cause dehydration and increase levels of breast tenderness and general anxiety symptoms.
You may expect that alcohol would alleviate pain symptoms, however, the reverse is true. Alcohol disrupts the hormone levels in the body and can cause the pain to become more intense and prolong the duration of cramps and PMS symptoms.
You can balance your hormones and get your symptoms to a manageable level by using a methodical approach of testing the various remedies until you find the method that works for you. Do your own investigation and research in conjunction with discussions with your doctor and pharmacist. Once you find the treatment that works for you, you can get your period pain under control and get on with your life.
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