Women typically experience menstrual cramps, known in medical terms as dysmenorrhea, immediately before and after their periods. These cramps are characterized by throbbing pains in the area of the lower abdomen, as well as the pelvis, lower back, groin, and thighs, although the severity of them can differ significantly from woman to woman.
Some women might consider the pain moderate, even irritating, while others could find the cramps severe enough to put a serious crimp in their daily activities for several days, even debilitating enough to put them on the bed or sofa for extended periods. The throbbing pain isn’t necessarily the only symptom, either; others can include nausea, loose stools, headache, and/or dizziness, per besthealth.guide.
What Causes Menstrual Cramps?
Menstrual cramps is part of the price women have to bear with during their child-bearing years, essentially occurring on a monthly basis. During that time, per health.com, women can experience bloating, tender breasts, irritability, and even mood swings, as well as the symptoms that accompany menstrual cramps mentioned above. Causes of the cramps can include heavy flow, uterine fibroids, pelvic inflammatory disease, cervical stenosis, and passing clots, as well as others, per besthealthguide.com.
Menstrual cramps do serve a purpose, or at least accompany a served purpose. This involves the woman’s uterus, which is made up of predominantly muscle cells whose most active role is to contract, which is typical of muscles. Per health.com, the discharge of blood and tissue from the uterus during menstruation stimulates contraction of the uterine muscle, thus producing the cramps.
“In order to limit the amount of menstrual bleeding, uterine contractions ‘clamp down’ on blood vessels called spiral arteries that feed the uterine lining,” says reproductive endocrinologist Joshua U. Klein, MD, quoted at health.com.
Natural Remedies for Menstrual Cramps
Most women don’t need prescription drugs to get relief from aggravating menstrual cramps. Following are seven natural remedies to consider, although a consultation with your physician is in order if you have any questions about any of these:
- Heat. Think heating pad or hot water bottle set to 40 degrees Celsius and applied to your inflamed area, preferably your abdomen. The heat can dilate blood vessels, enhance blood flow, and soothe sore muscles, relieving the pain from the cramps, per besthealth.guide.
- Essential oil massage. Such a remedial action on the lower abdomen can work to relieve the tension of pelvic muscles, thus reducing the pain of menstrual cramps. Among the recommended essential oils are coconut oil, cinnamon oil, krill oil, lavender, clary sage, and marjoram oil.
- Omega-3’s. Fatty acids, such as omaga-3’s, have shown general effectiveness in thwarting inflammation and pain, which could include menstrual cramps, per health.com.
- Ginger. Per health.com, ginger has anti-inflammatory attributes, and its components gingerols and gingerdiones can impede the synthesis of leukotriene and prostaglandin, reducing cramping pain.
- Gentle exercise. It need not be strenuous, and a little can go a long way for menstrual cramps sufferers. Basic stretching and walking are among the low-key exercises that can release endorphins, which are produced by your body to help relieve pain. Yoga can help as well, per medicalnewstoday.com, citing a Taiwanese study that showed how 12 weeks of twice-weekly yoga classes diminished menstrual cramps for participants.
- Calcium. Per healthline.com, this mineral can help diminish menstruation pain. Mayo Clinic recommends 1,000 milligrams a day for women between the ages of 19 and 50.
- Curcumin. Sourced as the main ingredient in turmeric, curcumin can help with premenstrual syndrome (PMS), per healthline.com, citing a 2015 study in which 70 women participated. They were each given two capsules of curcumin for seven days before their period and for three days after, resulting in significant alleviation of PMS symptoms.