Menstrual cramps are what a girl dreads the most during that time of the month.
That intense crampy pain in the lower abdomen that just doesn’t seem to go away. Sounds familiar?
Well, you are not alone.
Menstrual cramps can affect more than 50% of women each month during their period, and approximately 10% suffer from debilitating pain during this time, affecting their daily lifestyle.
But what exactly causes this excruciating and annoying symptom that seems to plague so many girls almost every month?
What Causes Menstrual Cramps?
Every month during our menstrual cycle, our uterus sheds its inner lining (also known as the endometrium) as a result of hormonal changes that occur when our body senses that we are not pregnant. Additionally, the womb also contracts to help in the expulsion of this inner lining.
This shedding of the endometrium results in the bleeding that girls experience during their period.
This action also releases hormones into our body also known as prostaglandins. Prostaglandins are hormones that are involved in causing pain and inflammation, which hence leads to the pain we experience in our lower abdomen known as cramps.
What Are the Common Symptoms Associated with Menstrual Cramps?
Menstrual cramps are extremely common and can occur a few days before, during or after your menstrual period.
You may experience a cramping sensation most commonly over the lower abdomen and back and can range from mild to severe intensity.
Some people may also experience additional symptoms such as bloating, nausea, vomiting or diarrhoea.
How Do I Know If My Menstrual Cramps Could Mean Something More?
The cause behind the majority of the menstrual cramps a girl experiences are part of the normal menstrual cycle. This is known as primary dysmenorrhea. Dysmenorrhea is the medical term that refers to menstrual cramps.
However, sometimes, these menstrual cramps could be due to an underlying problem in the womb or pelvic organs. So when should you worry if your cramps are more than your regular period pains? When should you seek a doctor’s opinion?
If you experience severe or excruciating pain during each period that affects your activities of daily living, if you persistently experience pain that is out of your menstrual cycle, or if you have any other symptoms that are out of the usual, then you should get it checked if in doubt!
What Could Be the Other Causes of Menstrual Cramps?
Menstrual cramps that are caused by an underlying pathology is referred to as secondary dysmenorrhea.
Common reasons why you could be having recurrent and persistent menstrual cramps could be due to underlying conditions such as endometriosis or adenomyosis.
Endometriosis is an often painful disorder in which tissue that normally lines the inside of your uterus — the endometrium — grows outside your uterus
Adenomyosis is a condition in which the inner lining of the uterus (the endometrium) breaks through the muscle wall of the uterus (the myometrium).
Your doctor will perform a physical examination and detailed investigations to look for these conditions.
Can Menstrual Cramps be cured? What Is the Best Way of Treating It?
Menstrual cramps, unfortunately, cannot be cured.
However, the good news is they can be well controlled with various types of medication.
A good way to control and reduce the discomfort that is caused by menstrual cramps is by taking painkillers. In particular, painkillers that belong to the NSAIDs group are particularly useful in controlling the symptoms of dysmenorrhea.
This is due to the mechanism of action of the painkillers in the NSAID group, which specifically target and block the prostaglandins that are the cause of the period pains!
Other good ways to manage period cramps can also include:
- Using a heating pad or hot water bottle
- Drinking a warm drink
- Avoid smoking or alcohol
- Regular exercise
If you are experiencing any worrying menstrual cramps, please call or visit any of our Women’s Health Clinics or drop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org for an appointment for a proper evaluation and treatment.