It’s that time of the month again and while you can handle the intense mood swings, the incessant comfort food cravings and the uncontrollable desire to curl up in bed with Netflix and ice cream, the cramps that come with PMS are what really throw you off your game. Well, honey, you’re not alone. Menstrual cramps, period pains or dysmenorrhea (if you want to get technical) affect more women than you know. And though it feels like you’re being punched in the gut repeatedly by the Hulk, what gets insanely difficult is attempting to explain exactly what you’re going through to other people (we really mean men). If how to reduce period pain is all you think during those days, then these period insights are surely gonna help.
So, what’s really going on down there?
Get ready for a science lesson: During menstruation, our body releases hormones called prostaglandins that cause the uterus to contract as it prepares to get rid of its lining in the form of blood. These fluctuating hormones, the contraction of the uterus to squeeze out the uterine lining i.e. the endometrium, and high levels of inflammatory compounds all contribute to those lower abdominal menstrual cramps. The cramping can begin a couple of days before the start of your period or on the first day of your period, but it generally gets the worst when your flow is the heaviest.
What do these cramps feel like?
These cramps are similar to a throbbing, pulsating pain in the lower belly. While they can be mild and completely bearable for some women, they can often be debilitating for others, especially if they’re accompanied by feelings of nausea, dizziness and headaches. Women suffering from fibroids, endometriosis, adenomyosis and irregular periods may suffer from more intense pain, leaving them bedridden and out of sorts for days. Doctors have now established that menstrual cramps can be as painful as having a heart attack. They’re finally beginning to understand what women go through every month. Finally.
How to reduce period cramps?
You don’t have to suck it up and suffer in silence anymore, ladies. Turns out there are certain expert-backed strategies to give you temporary relief and even reduce pain in the long-term.
Best Ways To Reduce Period Pain
1. Drink Up
Ever feel bloated when you’re on your period? You and all of us, sister. Staying hydrated doesn’t directly curb the cramps but it helps with the bloating which makes the pain much worse. When you know you’re on the verge of being visited by Aunt Flo, keep a bottle handy, squeeze in some lime for an extra kick, and keep swigging all day long. Cut down on your salt content and stay away from alcohol (we know it’s supposed to drown out the pain but, trust us, it won’t work here).
2. Eat Your Pain Away
PMS equals hunger pangs and we know you’re craving all-things-fried to bring you comfort. But those burgers, donuts and fries aren’t your friends. Stick to low-fat, high-fibre diets rich in Magnesium, Zinc, Vitamins and Omega 3 which are natural anti-inflammatories and get set to fight off those menstrual cramps. And guess what, you can satisfy your sweet tooth with some dark chocolate which will relax your muscles and lift your spirits too. What can we say, it’s what the doctor’s ordered.
3. Just Move It
We understand that exercising is probably the last thing you want to do when you’ve got your period, but there’s good reason to push through. While exercise, whether it’s HIIT, yoga, or a simple jog, doesn’t provide instantly pain relief, it has been proven that women who work out regularly and stay fit have lesser lower abdominal pain than those who don’t. Physical activity being one of the best ways to reduce period pain, increases blood circulation and releases endorphins which work wonders as the body’s natural pain medicine and as stress-busting happy hormones that lift your spirits.
4. Hit It With Heat
One of the natural ways to reduce period pain, using a heating pad or taking a hot shower is practically a miracle cure for most women suffering from menstrual cramps. Studies show that topical heat can block pain receptors on the skin and can relax tense uterine muscles reducing the contractions that cause cramping. If you’re on the go when the pain hits you, carry an easily rechargeable cordless heating wrap, a microwaveable heating pad or a portable hot water bottle to bring you relief no matter where you are and what you’re up to.
5. Pop A Pill
Don’t be wary of these little helpers. Ibuprofen, Aspirin and Naproxen work wonders to alleviate pain by blocking the products of prostaglandins and are easily available over the counter. It’s best to take them right at the start of your period before the pain gets too intense. Keep a strip in your handbag or makeup kit so you’re not ruffling through your belongings in your time of need. If that isn’t enough, as a bonus, these pain relievers also help in making your flow a little lighter.
6. It’s Massage Time
You’ll be pleased to know that a great way to release stress and tension in your abdominal region during menstruation is a massage. Whether you do it yourself or get someone to do it for you, even 5-10 minutes of a gentle tummy massage can bring immense respite by boosting blood flow to the cramped area. Yup, it’s that simple. Give yourself some extra TLC by adding essential oils like Lavender or Clary Sage which have pain-relieving compounds. Keeping your movements light, focus on your lower back and your abdomen and watch your pain slip slowly away.
7. Bust That Stress
Did you know that stress affects reproductive hormones? So, it’s only logical that it would affect your period as well. Studies have shown that women who experience high stress levels during the month complain of more intense menstrual cramps. And while it’s easier said than done, dialling back on the stress can help control the period pain you experience on your cycle. We recommend making time for yourself – meditate, unwind with your friends, or simply Netflix and chill (we mean that literally). We all need some ‘me’ time and if that’s going to make your monthlies a little more bearable, it’s worth it.