Menstrual pain is one of the only symptom that comes up as regularly as the monthly bills … and they have to be tolerated like an unwelcome guest!
Menstruation is often painful at the end of adolescence and the years preceding menopause, because these are the periods of hormonal fluctuations.
Fortunately, menstrual cramps are usually quite mild. However as per a research estimate more than 60% of women experience very intolerable cramps during some of these cycles in the first four years of puberty or before menopause.
Causes of menstrual pain: Woman’s body produces prostaglandin a hormone which help the uterus to contract and get rid of mucous. The uterus must contract to generate the menstrual flow, and these contractions result in experience of pain.
Generally the intensity of cramps is directly related to the amount of prostaglandin produced by the body, However in certain cases, other factors like endometriosis, might be responsible for these cramps.
Endometriosis is the development of normal tissue of the uterus, outside its usual location. Endometriosis really increases the pain of menstrual cramps,
Another instance of unusual menstrual pain occurs when uterus tries to remove blood clots caused by fibroids.
Side effects of menstrual pain: In most cases, dysmenorrhea has no consequence other than the inconvenience of pain. However in case of intense, repeated and unrelieved menstrual pain, it can cause psychological distress, and sometimes even depression.
Although it is impossible to completely eliminate cramps, there are many ways to relieve pain.
I) Exercise: Relaxation exercises are effective remedy for menstrual pain.
Walking is effective in reducing menstrual pain because it improves blood circulation in the pelvic area. Swimming is also very effective in reducing menstrual pain as it releases endorphins – the body’s natural painkiller which is effective home remedy for menstrual pain.
Another effective light exercise for menstrual cramps is as follow:
Lie on the back on the floor or a bed, knees bent, feet flat on the floor or on the bed and stretch out your arms to the side, palms flat. Swing your stomach slightly up and down for several minutes, by relaxing the muscles. By making these small movements, taking quick, short breaths one can get relief from menstrual pain.
II) Fomentation or Hot Sitz Bath: Massaging the painful area with hot water bottle or heating pad increases the blood flow and circulation to the uterus, which helps reduce the effect of chemicals that cause menstrual cramps. A hot sitz bath can also be used to get relief from menstrual pain.
Massaging with creams or oils that have deep heating action is one of the best home remedies for menstrual pain. The abdomen can also be warmed by drinking hot liquids, such as clear soups, broths or herbal teas.
III) Cold Packs: Some women find a cold pack to be more effective than hot bath in relieving menstrual pain. Cold pack helps constrict blood vessels, which provides relief from the cramps. Ice pack prepared by putting ice in a zipped plastic bag and covering it with a towel can be placed on the abdomen for 15 to 20 minutes.
IV) Food rich in Calcium: Several independent researches have shown that women who consumed about 1,200 mg of calcium per day or more witness a reduction in their menstrual pain. Calcium helps maintain normal muscle tone. Muscles rules that lack calcium tend to become hyperactive which causes menstrual cramps. Thus calcium provides a great relief from menstrual pain.
Calcium also helps in reducing water retention and improving mood.
On an average, women are recommended a minimum daily intake 800 mg of Calcium which equates to about three cups of milk.
The normal staple diet is naturally deficient in Calcium. A glass of skimmed milk or a cup of yoghurt provides approximately 300 mg of calcium. Taking food naturally rich in calcium is effective in treatment of menstrual pain.
V) Food rich in Magnesium: Magnesium increases the absorption of calcium from the body and thus helps in reducing menstrual pain. Food rich in magnesium include beans, whole grains such as buckwheat, salmon, shrimp, tofu, vegetables and nuts.
VI) Unripe Papaya: Papaya is a very effective home remedy for menstrual cramps during menstrual cycle. Eating unripe papaya around a woman’s menstrual cycle is very effective preventive measure against menstrual pain.
VII) Sesame seeds: Sesame seeds are amongst the best home remedies for menstrual pain and cramps. Sesame seeds help in keeping the blood flow regular and reduce the possibility of cramps during the menstrual cycle. Taking sesame seeds soaked in water or eating a handful of the seeds are very helpful in menstrual problems. For best results one can eat the seeds at least two or three days before the menstrual cycle starts.
VIII) Parsley: Parsley is also very effective in getting relief from menstrual pain. Parsley also regulates irregular menstrual cycle. A juice made from parsley can be taken twice a day during periods to prevent excessive menstrual pain. Parsley tea can alternative be used during periods.
IX) Ginger: Ginger is one of the best and most effective home remedy for menstrual pain. Ginger tea can relieve menstrual cramps. Ginger must be pounded and boiled in water for a few minutes; this infusion can be sweetened with sugar or honey to make it more palatable and effective. This should be taken thrice daily after meals for relief from painful menstruation and to stop menstrual flow.
X) Indian Spikenard: Indian spikenard is one of the best and most effective home remedies for menstrual problems like dysmenorrhoea – which is very painful and difficult menstruation.
XI) Basil leaves: Basil leaves are an excellent home remedy for menstrual problems. Using these leaves can help in getting relief from cramps. Basil leaves can be had in raw form or can be added in tea or as a spice in the food. It can also be added in water and drunk for relief from menstrual pain.
XII) Coriander seeds: Coriander seeds have vital anti inflammatory and other useful properties that makes it very effective in reducing menstrual pain and correcting irregular menstrual cycle. A handful of seeds should be boiled in water till very little water remains and this should then be strained and this can be taken twice daily and can be taken when warm for better results.
XIII) Crampbark(Botanical name: Viburnumopulus) Cramp bark is one of the oldest and best home remedies for treating menstrual pain. Cramp Bark helps alleviate severe cramping that causes nausea, vomiting, chills and sweating.
XIV) Asafoetida: Asafoetida mix with butter and honey or cooked asafoetida is effective when menstrual pain is caused due to excessive menstruation.
XV) Black cohosh: Black cohosh is a very widely used herb to relieve menstrual pain. The herb can be taken as raw plant or its root cab be dried or exracted for internal use. The presribed dosage is 20-40 mg twice daily and continued till menstrual pain continues. This herb should NOT be taken during pregnancy as it can cause heart trouble for the infant.
XVI) Other herbs: Decoction made by mixing one or all of the following ingredients is effective in addressing variety of menstrual problems: wood apple, marigold, rough chaff, mango bark, blue cohosh, banana flowers, hermal, chicory, tenner’s cassia, lemon grass, bengal gram and blood wort. Their intake during menstrual period or days before the start of the menstrual cycle is effective in treatment of menstrual pain and irregular menstrual cycle.
XVII) Pills: In case of intense menstrual pain, pills can be taken under advice of your doctor. Ibuprofen, which is very effective inhibitors of prostaglandin, is generally prescribed in such cases. In some cases Naproxen is also prescribed. However consult your doctor before taking any pills.
A diet regimen comprising of the following nutrients is recommended as home remedy for menstrual pain.
Omega 3: Take liberal amount of fatty fish ( salmon, sardines, mackerel,herring), oil of flaxseed and hemp seeds, which are important sources of omega-3.
Mineral rich: Diet should be rich in vitamins and minerals like calcium and magnesium. These micro-nutrients are essential for the metabolism of prostaglandins and their absence results in production of excessive prostaglandins which results in menstrual pain.
Water Consumption: Drink enough water to keep the body hydrated and to regulate the menstrual flow.
Fiber rich food: Constipation is a very common complaint associated with monthly cycles. Add extra fiber to your diet during periods to keep your digestive system in order.
Foods to avoid
Sugar: Reduce consumption of refined sugars as it produces insulin which results in production of pro-inflammatory prostaglandins.
Vegetable fats: Eat less vegetable fats and margarine, as they result in formation of pro-inflammatory prostaglandins, which is the main cause of menstrual pain.
Red meats: Red meats are rich in arachidonic acid, which stimulates production of pro-inflammatory prostaglandins.
Other foods to avoid: Avoid tea, alcohol and caffeinated foods (caffeine is a strict NO) which might worsen the condition. Avoid white flour products and tinned foods.
Salt for obese women: Women who tend to retain water during their periods must limit sodium intake. Salty snacks like chips and cheese can make you feel bloated.
Researches have shown that anxiety triggers release of adrenaline and cortisol which increase pain and discomfort during menstrual cycle.
Indulge a little in creative pursuits to keep yourself away from thinking of cramps. A positive bent of mind triggers release of several vital hormones which help relief from pain and other menstrual discomforts.
Try to incorporate practices such as massage, yoga or meditation into your lifestyle.
Exercise should be a regular part of daily activity. Gentle massage and relaxing techniques like acupuncture are also helpful in treating menstrual pain.
When to consult a doctor?
If the pain continue to create discomfort every month, despite the home remedies you try, consider discussing the matter with your doctor.
Its time to consult a doctor if,
- Cramps are so intense that it prevent you from conducting your normal activities.
- Cramps are accompanied by nausea, headache, diarrhea and vomiting.
- Its bleeding profusely or you pass clots for more than a day.
- If cramps occur suddenly in adulthood.
- If menstrual discharge is accompanied by intensified menorrhagia ( excessive menstruation)
- If menstrual pain is preceded or accompanied by fever.
- If menstrual pain is preceded or accompanied by abnormal vaginal discharge.