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Cramping Up? This Is Why Your Period Is So Painful

It’s not just an excuse to stay off games: doctors have compared the pain caused by menstrual cramps to that of experiencing a heart attack. If you’re one of the 20% of women suffering from painful cramping, read on for relief

Why you’re getting period pain

If you’re one of the unlucky 20 per cent, and have ruled out other possible causes such as endometriosis, fibroids or an ectopic pregnancy, studies indicate that a possible trigger of painful menstrual cramps could be a surplus of production of prostaglandins, a group of lipids that cause your uterus to contract. Incidentally, prostaglandins are sometimes prescribed to pregnant women to bring on childbirth, i.e, contractions, i.e, pain. It’s not known why some women produce more prostaglandins than others, so if that could be worked on soon, cool.

What you can do to ease the pain

First off, give yourself a break. Onto the immediate SOS relief:

Painkillers: Anti-inflammatory painkillers such as ibuprofen and aspirin have been shown to be more effective when it comes to relieving the pain of menstrual cramps, but Brochmann and Støkken Dahl stress that, if painful menstrual cramps tend to come along for the ride with every single period, you should take pain relief as directed the day before your period starts, or at the very first sign that an agonising contraction could be on its way, in order to make it as effective as possible.

Hormonal contraceptives: Make an appointment with your GP to discuss your period pain, and if you’ve eliminated other potential triggers you may be recommended hormonal contraception to thin the womb lining, reducing the amount of prostaglandin that your body produces, resulting in less frequent, and less severe, cramps. The combined contraceptive pill, the contraceptive impact or injection and the Mirena coil are thought to be most effective when it comes to reducing period pain, but not all contraception has this effect. The copper or plastic IUD is known to cause both heavy periods and more painful menstrual cramps, so if you have it and are in agony, discuss other options with your GP, sharpish. Whatever your situation, if hormonal contraceptives haven’t reduced your period pain after three months, ask to be referred to a specialist for further tests.

A workout: The prospect is probably hideous if you’re mid menstrual cramp attack, but studies suggest that gentle exercise can act as mild pain relief. If you can move, try swimming or walking and see how you go. A paper published by scientists in Taiwan in 2016 also concluded that a short-term course of yoga (two 50 minute sessions twice a week for 12 weeks) resulted in a reduction of menstrual pain and physical premenstrual symptoms. More research is needed, but if you can get through a few sun salutations and a savasana, it should at least help to lower your stress levels. Combine with breathing techniques to aid relaxation and aromatherapy if you’re into it- clary sage is particularly therapeutic for period paid according to aromatherapy expert Michelle Roques O’Neil.

Localised heat: i.e, the hot water bottle method. Seems crude, but until we have better treatment options, it can help, as can heat pads and localised massage. Or just book a full body massage and file it under “giving yourself a break”.

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