Period pain ( Dysmenorrhea )
By Dr Brighton Chireka
Period pain (dysmenorrhoea) is usually felt as painful muscle cramps in the lower tummy, which can sometimes spread to the back and thighs. Sometimes period pain comes in intense spasms, while at other times the pain may be dull but more constant.
The period pain usually starts when the menstrual bleeding begins, and normally lasts for 48-72 hours. Menstruation is a process in women in which the body sheds the lining of the uterus. This occurs on a monthly basis from puberty till menopause. Blood flows from the uterus , through the neck of uterus ( cervix) into the vaginal canal. Some discomfort , pain and cramps are normal during the menstrual period. However period pain that causes severe pain resulting in women missing work or school is not normal.
Period pain is extremely common. Some studies suggest up to 90% of menstruating women experience pain and discomfort during their period. This means that almost all women will have stories to tell about period pain. I hope this article and comments from readers of this platform will help ease the agony cause by period pain.
How do we treat period pain?
Using pain killers
Most cases of period pain can be managed at home by buying a number of pain killers over the counter .Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS ) such as ibuprofen can be bought over counter. If you cannot take NSAIDS then you can try paracetamol . If these are not effective your doctor can prescribe other tablets such as naproxen, mefenamic acid or codeine.
Using contraceptive pills
If the above treatment fails then the contraceptive pill can be used to ease off the pain as well especially the combined oral contraceptive pill. Combined contraceptive pills can help to ease period pain because they thin the lining of the womb and help to reduce the amount of prostaglandin chemicals your body releases. If the lining of the womb is thinner, the muscles don’t have to contract as much when it needs to shed away as part of monthly menstrual cycle. The period will also be lighter as well as being less painful.
Treating painful periods at home with no medication
There are a number of ways one can treat her painful periods at home. Although one cannot stop the pain completely, these measures can often help to ease or reduce it.
Stop smoking – smoking is thought to increase your risk of period pain
Exercise – although one may not want to exercise while having a painful period, keeping active can help to reduce pain; try some gentle swimming, walking or cycling
Heat – one could try applying either a heat pad or a hot water bottle to reduce pain; make sure you don’t use boiling water as you could damage your skin
warm bath or shower – taking a bath or shower can help to relieve your pain, while also helping you to relax
massage – light circular massage around your lower abdomen may help to reduce pain. Partners can help here by massaging around the lower tummy area.
relaxation techniques – you might want to try a relaxing activity, such as yoga or pilates, to help distract you from feelings of pain and discomfort.
Period pain caused by a medical condition
If you have not managed to control your pain after three months of treatment with NSAIDs and/or the combined contraceptive pill, your GP may refer you to see a specialist for further investigations to rule out an underlying medical condition.
If your period pain is caused by an underlying condition, your treatment will depend on which condition you have.
Less commonly, your period pain may be caused by an underlying medical condition, such as:
Endometriosis – the cells that normally line the womb start to grow in other places within the body, usually in the fallopian tubes and ovaries; when these cells shed and fall away, they can cause intense pain.
Fibroids– this condition occurs when non-cancerous tumours grow in the womb, which can make your periods heavy and painful
Pelvic inflammatory disease – your womb, fallopian tubes and ovaries become infected with bacteria, leaving them severely inflamed (swollen and irritated)
Adenomyosis – the tissue that normally lines the womb starts to grow within the muscular wall of the womb, making your periods particularly painful
Intrauterine device ( IUD) – this is a form of contraception made from copper and plastic, which fits inside the womb; it can sometimes cause period pain, especially in the first few months after it is inserted.
I hope I have added value and relief to women’s lives as we celebrate women’s international day.
This article was compiled by Dr. Brighton Chireka who is a GP and a Health Commissioner in South Kent Coast in the United Kingdom. You can contact him at: email@example.com and can read more of his work on his blog at DR CHIREKA’S BLOG
Disclaimer: This article is for information only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions. Dr Chireka has used all reasonable care in compiling the information but make no warranty as to its accuracy. Consult a doctor or other health care professional for diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions. Views expressed here are personal and do not in any way , shape or form represent the views of organisations that Dr Chireka work for or is associated with.