While painful menstrual cramps (referred to medically as dysmenorrhea) can affect pre-menopausal women at any stage of her life, severe period pain with no underlying cause is most common in teenagers and women in their 20s, and tends to improve with age or after childbirth. There are a number of treatment options available for period pain relief, ranging from prescription drugs and herbal remedies to simple but effective, try at home techniques.
Taken at regular intervals, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory painkillers can provide highly effective period pain relief for many women. This type of medication is usually only available on prescription and works by blocking or reducing the effect of prostaglandin, a chemical naturally present in the body that is thought to contribute to painful menstrual cramps. For maximum efficacy, it is important that you take your first dose one day before your period is due or as soon as your pain begins.
This non-prescription painkiller is a good alternative period pain relief option for women who are unable to take non-steroidal drugs. Paracetamol has a mild, anti-inflammatory affect which can help to relieve the common painful cramp sensation in the lower abdomen. It may also help reduce the feelings of nausea some women experience at this time of the month. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully to ensure you do not take more than the maximum daily dose.
If your pain is only mild, you may find it comforting to have a warm bath or to hold a covered hot water bottle gently against your lower abdomen until the pain begins to cease.
The contraceptive pill
Combined oral contraceptives or “the pill” thin the lining of the uterus and reduce levels of prostaglandin, providing highly effective period pain relief for women who also need a reliable contraception option.
Another viable option for women who need long-term contraception as well as effective period pain relief, the intra-uterine system is a small T shaped device that is inserted into the womb by a medical professional. It contains a progestogen hormone which causes the lining of the uterus to thin, resulting in lighter, less painful periods. The intra-uterine system is effective for up to five years and causes minimum discomfort or side-effects.
Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) is a kind of non-invasive therapy that uses low power electrical impulses to relieve pain. The treatment is thought to block or disrupt the pain signals which the nerves send to the brain, while simultaneously aiding the production of endorphins, the group of hormones that provide natural pain relief. While the treatment was originally developed to help women in labor, it is now popularly used around the world to treat a range of painful conditions, including back pain, migraine, arthritis and sports injuries. Some experts remain skeptical about the value of TENS for chronic pain relief, but in some countries, such as Scandinavia, it has become a well known treatment for menstrual cramps.
There is growing evidence that certain dietary supplements and herbal remedies can provide effective period pain relief when used regularly alongside a healthy lifestyle. Research indicates that Curcuma Comosa, an Asian medicinal plant which is a relative of the Ginger family, has strong anti-inflammatory properties which help to alleviate painful menstrual cramping, while improving the symptoms of PMS and helping to regulate periods.