Menstrual cramps are caused by a hormone-like substance known as prostaglandin that results to muscle contraction during menstruation. Cramping causes a dull throbbing pain felt in the lower abdomen and spreads to the lower and thighs. Cramps usually disappear after 1-3 days of the period, but some women can feel cramps before the start of menstruation.
There are factors that increase the risk of experiencing menstrual cramps such as genetics, early puberty, unhealthy habits and heavy episodes of bleeding during menstruation. Unhealthy habits include smoking, living a sedentary lifestyle, taking prohibited drugs and excessively drinking alcoholic beverages. Some women cannot experience menstrual cramps after childbirth.
Symptoms of menstrual cramps
- Dull, constant ache
- Pain that spreads to the lower back and thighs
- Throbbing or cramping pain can be felt in the lower abdomen that can become severe.
- Some women can experience headaches, nausea, loose stools and dizziness
If the symptoms of menstrual cramps become worse or the affected person is older than 25 years old and just started to experience menstrual cramps, seek medical help immediately.
- Apply heat on the lower abdomen to relax the contracting muscles in the uterus. Place a heating pad on the lower abdomen and lower back or if the heating pad is not available, use a plastic bottle filled with hot. Another way is soaking a towel in hot water, wring out excess water and heat in a microwave for at least a minute and place it on the affected area until the towel becomes cool. Repeat the procedure until there is no more pain.
- Take a hot shower to minimize the pain and allow the muscles relax and lessen the cramps.
- Use the prescribed over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) such as ibuprofen or naproxen to lessen the menstrual cramping. Take ibuprofen 400-600 mg every 4-6 hours or 800mg every 8 hours.
- Boil some ginger slices in a cup of water for 5 minutes. Strain it and mix with a few drops of honey and lemon juice. Drink this tea at least 3 times every day during the menstrual period. Ginger lowers the level of prostaglandins which produces pain. Ginger also eliminates fatigue caused by premenstrual syndrome and make irregular periods become regular.
- Perform relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, reciting a prayer, repeating a word or sound and maintaining a positive attitude to relax the mind and letting go of the pain.
- Take the prescribed supplements such as Vitamin E 500U, Vitamin B1 100 mg and Vitamin B6 200mg to help with the menstrual cramps and should be taken at least every day.
- Perform regular exercises to lessen the menstrual cramps such as running, walking, kayaking, swimming and hiking.