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What You Can Do For Unbearable Menstrual Cramps

Dysmenorrhea, also referred to as menstrual cramps, is usually a painful and debilitating condition that not only interferes with your everyday activities, but also degrades your quality of life. This only implies that having to contend with this type of pain monthly can be the most intimidating and daunting of tasks.

What does menstrual cramp feel like and how long does it last?

The pain usually manifests in your lower abdomen as well as the lower back. Usually, it starts 1 or 2 days before menstruation and may last between 2 to 4 days.  

If the pain is only associated with the process of menstruation, the condition is referred to as primary dysmenorrhea. On the other hand, if the cramping pain is as a result of an underlying medical condition such as pelvic inflammatory disease, endometriosis, or uterine fibroids, it is called a secondary menstrual cramp. 

Why do I get menstrual cramps? 

During your menstrual cycle, your uterus undergoes contraction in order to shed its lining. The contractions are brought about or triggered by hormone-like substances referred to as prostaglandins. Higher levels of this particular substance are believed to result in more severe menstrual cramps. 

However, some individuals tend to suffer from severe menstrual cramps without any apparent cause. And for others, painful menstrual cramps may be a sign of an underlying health problem. 

What is the cause of Primary Menstrual Cramps?

Primary Dysmenorrhea is usually associated with the menstruation process itself. It is most common among adolescents and usually occurs during the initial stages of their menstrual cycle. Individuals suffering from primary dysmenorrhea do not actually have pelvic abnormalities. 

Common symptoms that result of primary menstrual cramps may include aching of the lower abdomen, stomach bloating, vomiting, nausea, exhaustion, diarrhoea, headache, dizziness and backache. 

What are the secondary causes of Menstrual Cramps also known as Secondary Dysmenorrhea?

Research has proven that secondary menstrual cramps are more common among mature females and their onset happen after the establishment of the ovulary cycle. 

In Secondary Dysmenorrhea, usually results in intermittent, severe cramping menstrual pain or an unending dull ache. Just like primary menstrual cramp, it usually manifests in a variety of symptoms such as dizziness, diarrhoea, nausea, fatigue, and headache among other symptoms.

As we mentioned earlier, lesions, infections as well as structural abnormalities in your womb can cause the above symptoms.  

How can I relieve menstrual cramps?

  • Using heat wrap, heat pad or hot water bottle over the aching abdominal area to alleviate the associated pain.
  • Take care of your body by keeping yourself highly hydrated at all times, by taking between 1.5 and 2L of fluid (water) daily. 
  • Watch out for your diet by reducing intake of caffeine, refined and high sugar foods. Moderate your alcohol consumption (14 units per week).
  • Boost your health by consuming fruits high in anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidants such as blueberries, tomatoes, squashes and pumpkins. Include foods high in omega fatty acids, vitamin B1, vitamin D, calcium and magnesium. Foods like almonds and dark-green vegetables should also be on your list.
  • For some women, fennel, cinnamon, chamomile tea, curcumin and ginger may also help to alleviate severity of dysmenorrhea symptoms.
  • Incorporating exercise into your daily routine
  • Reducing stress levels
  • Avoid or quit smoking

Should I see a doctor for my painful menstrual cramps?

Of course, the best way to manage dysmenorrhea symptoms is to get assessed by your doctor. During which, your doctor will conduct your medical history along with a physical examination that targets your pelvis and lower abdomen.

Depending on the severity of your condition and symptoms, blood tests and ultrasound scans of your pelvis may also be conducted to confirm any suspicions of abnormalities within your womb and ovaries. 

In more severe cases, it may require the intervention of a gynecologist who will have to conduct a surgical diagnostic procedure referred to as laparoscopy to help obtain tissue samples from both the ovaries and the womb. Gynecologic laparoscopy is a highly minimally invasive surgical procedure used to confirm endometriosis diagnosis.  

How do you get rid of period cramps fast? 

You can safely manage painful cramps through the use of painkillers. The most recommended painkillers are the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication (NSAIDs), including mefenamic acid.

What other treatment options are available for period cramps?

Depending on your preference, the severity of your condition as well as your doctor’s assessment, you may be advised to use a combination of birth-control pills to regulate the flow of your menstrual cycle. This may help alleviate your menstrual pain. 

Undergoing period cramps can be tough, but seeking a doctor’s advice helps you to feel heard and provides you with the right solution. 

Speak to your doctor to keep this pain under control, manage your symptoms and find out the cause behind your persistent severe menstrual cramps.


  1. Chen, C. X., Groves, D., Miller, W. R., & Carpenter, J. S. (2018). Big Data and Dysmenorrhea: What Questions Do Women and Men Ask About Menstrual Pain?. Journal of women’s health (2002)27(10), 1233–1241.
  2. Yang, M., Chen, X., Bo, L., Lao, L., Chen, J., Yu, S., Yu, Z., Tang, H., Yi, L., Wu, X., Yang, J., & Liang, F. (2017). Moxibustion for pain relief in patients with primary dysmenorrhea: A randomized controlled trial. PloS one12(2), e0170952.

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