Treatment for Severe Menstrual Pain and Cramps

Most of us experience discomfort during our periods, whether from cramps, headaches, constipation, or body aches. But sometimes, this pain isn’t just uncomfortable, it’s severe and debilitating. Dealing with this kind of pain can really take a toll on your mood and energy, both during your period and beyond. So I wanted to tell you about the symptoms, causes, and how we handle the treatment for severe menstrual pain and cramps.

Causes of Severe Cramps During Your Period

Severe period pain that keeps you from performing everyday activities is also known as dysmenorrhea. Some of the symptoms of dysmenorrhea include:

  • Cramps or pain in the lower abdomen and/or lower back
  • Pulling feeling in the inner thighs
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness

There are a couple of different causes of severe period pain, and they are separated into two categories: primary dysmenorrhea and secondary dysmenorrhea.

Primary Dysmenorrhea

Primary dysmenorrhea is the most common type of dysmenorrhea. It’s typically caused by having your period and the production of chemicals called prostaglandins. These chemicals have many effects, including causing the muscle of the uterus to contract, causing (sometimes severe) cramps. This type of dysmenorrhea usually gets less painful as you get older, but you may be at a higher risk for severe period pain if you:

  • Have longer or heavier periods
  • Got your first period before age 11
  • Have high stress levels
  • Smoke

Secondary Dysmenorrhea

Secondary dysmenorrhea is caused by a medical condition other than menstruation and prostaglandins, such as endometriosis or uterine fibroids, or ovarian cysts. Pain from secondary dysmenorrhea typically gets worse as you get older, and lasts longer than normal menstrual cramps.

Other Period Pain: Menstrual Migraines

Around 1 in 10 women will experience a migraine at some point in their life. And about half of these women get migraines during or around the time of their period.

Migraines are painful, severe headaches that can keep you from performing normal activities, much like severe menstrual cramps. While there’s no single cause of migraines, there are things that can trigger them, like stress, anxiety, bright lights, or the hormones that control your menstrual cycle.

If you think you’re having migraine headaches, or your typical migraine symptoms change, please come in and talk to us. We can’t cure your migraines, but there are options to treat them, including some types of hormonal birth control, blood pressure medicines, seizure medicines, or antidepressants. The most important part of treating menstrual migraine is that you come in and speak with us so we can help you identify the triggers and select the best kind of treatment for you.

Menstrual Pain Relief to Try at Home

There is a number of ways that we can help with your menstrual pain problems – from IUDs to medications, to surgery. But there are also a few things that you can try on your own for some relief at home. These include:

  • Exercising: Regular aerobic workouts, such as walking, jogging, biking, or swimming, help produce pain-blocking chemicals.
  • Applying heat: A warm bath, heating pad, or hot water bottle on your abdomen can be soothing.
  • Sleeping: Make sure you get enough sleep before and during your period.
  • Having sex: Orgasms can relieve menstrual cramps in some women.
  • Relaxing: Meditate or do yoga. Relaxation techniques can help you cope with pain.
  • Taking Medicine: NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) such as ibuprofen can help relieve pain.

How to Know If You Should See A Health Care Provider

If over the counter medicines like Tylenol, ibuprofen, or Midol don’t help you find any relief from cramps, or you’re missing school or work, it’s time to come in and talk to us. We can talk to you about your pain and, if needed, perform physical exams to rule out any other possible health problems. Come see us to rule out other health issues if you have blood clots larger than a quarter in your menstrual flow, or your pain happens when you’re not on your period. Of course, every woman’s symptoms are different! So, if you aren’t experiencing clots or pain outside of your menstrual cycle, but still have severe pain while on your period, we still suggest you make an appointment at our office.

We Can Help

Our treatment for severe menstrual pain and cramps varies based on your symptoms, whether they are in the primary or secondary dysmenorrhea category. If your pain is coming from a condition like endometriosis, fibroids, or cysts, we might prescribe a hormonal birth control, like the pill, a birth control shot, a vaginal ring, or an intrauterine device (IUD). If the pain still persists, we may need to refer you to a Gynecologist physician to discuss surgical treatment as a last resort. No matter what kind of pain you’re experiencing on your period, we’re here to help. No woman should have to miss out on the normal parts of life because of severe menstrual pain and cramps.

If you’re having problems with pain during your menstrual cycle (or beyond), please contact us.

More information on Period Problems