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Menstrual Cramps - Cause, Symptoms, Effective Home Remedies for periods pain



What are Menstrual Cramps:


Menstrual cramps or menstrual pains are pains and discomfort in the abdomen and pelvic area experienced by women during their monthly menstrual period. This pain could range from mild to severe. Severe cramps could sometime interfere with daily activities of the woman. Pain could start 1 or 2 days before the start of actual bleeding and could last up to 1 or 2 days after the start of the periods. More than 50% of women who have periods have some sort of pain during their menstrual cycle, 15% of whom have severe pains and are incapacitated.

Medically, menstrual pain is referred to as ‘Dysmenorrhea’ or ‘Dysmenorrhoea. Dysmenorrhoea could be classified as primary or secondary; depending on the severity and cause of the pain.

Primary Dysmenorrhoea: Primary Dysmenorrhoea refers to the pain during periods in otherwise healthy women. It is not associated with any specific problems in uterus or pelvic region.

Secondary Dysmenorrhoea: Secondary Dysmenorrhoea refers to the pain a woman experiences during her periods because of some underlying gynaecological cause – either a disease or some structural abnormality within or outside the uterus.

Cause of Menstrual Cramps:

To explain menstrual cycle in layman terms, every month the inner lining of the uterus builds up in preparation for a possible pregnancy. If the egg is not fertilized by the sperm, these eggs must be discarded. This is done by lowering the estrogen and proestrogen levels which lead to breaking down of the lining and producing a compound called prostaglandins. Prostaglandins contract the muscles of the uterus, which breaks the eggs and further contractions lead to expulsion of the eggs through the vagina. These contractions cause pain which are referred to as menstrual cramps or menstrual pain. This is very normal and is also the cause of Primary Dysmenorrhoea. Sometimes, use of tampons also increases menstrual cramps and pains.

The conditions that cause secondary dysmenorrhoea are varied and may or may not involve prostaglandins. Some of the possible causes could be:

  • Endometriosis (condition in which tissue similar to the one lining the uterus forms elsewhere in the body, causing pain and infertility)
  • Uterine fibroid or polyps (benign/non-cancerous tumors found in women)
  • Ovarian cysts (small fluid-filled sacs that develop in woman’s ovaries)
  • Pelvic inflammation
  • Adenomyosis (harmless condition characterized by thickening of the uterus)
  • Pelvic congestions
  • Presence of an IUD (intrauterine device) – Some women get IUD inserted for birth control. Presence of these could be a potential cause of menstrual pains.

Risk factors associated with Menstrual Cramps:

Though most women suffer from menstrual pains at least once in their lifetime, some factors aggravate the condition. These include:

  • Obesity
  • Smoking cigarettes
  • Nulliparity (the condition in a woman of never having given birth)
  • Use of tampons
  • Lack of exercise
  • Narrow cervical canal
  • Retroverted uterus or backward tilting of the uterus
  • Family history of painful periods
  • Emotional stress
  • Pelvic infections
  • Sexually transmitted diseases or STDs

Symptoms of Menstrual Cramps:

It is observed that menstrual cramps get better with age or after women deliver. Usual symptoms of the condition are:

  • Pain in the pelvic area
  • Pain and pressure in the lower abdomen. Sometimes this can extend to inner thighs, back and legs also
  • Heaviness and bloating sensation

In severe cases, these could be accompanied with the following symptoms:

  • Vomiting
  • Constipation or Diarrhoea
  • Headache
  • Mood swings
  • Loose motions
  • Dizziness
  • Sweating
  • Loss of appetite

Home Remedies for Menstrual Cramps:

Most women prefer home remedies for menstrual pain. The pain and discomfort can be eased by using the following home remedies:

Keep yourself hydrated: Dehydration can worsen the cramps. Drink a lot of water to make sure you are hydrated

Mint (Hindi: Pudina): Drink a cup of mint tea in the morning and one in the evening. You can also take Pudin Hara or suck mint candies

Ginger (Hindi:Adrak): Put a piece of ginger in boiling water and let it simmer for 5 minutes. Drink this water 3 times a day after your meals

Avoid caffeine: Caffeine contains oils that irritate the intestines of few women and increase menstrual cramps. If you are one of them, avoid caffeine in the form of coffee, chocolates or cola

Fenugreek (Hindi: Methi): Add a teaspoon of fenugreek seeds to a glass of buttermilk (Hindi: Chaas) and drink this. It helps in reducing stomach ache during menses

Coriander seeds (Hindi: Dhania): Add 15-20 coriander seeds in a glass of boiling water and let it simmer for 5 minutes. Let this cool and drink this to get relief from the cramps. You can add honey or sugar for taste

Mustard Seeds (Hindi: Sarson): Boil a teaspoon of mustard seeds in water. Dip a cloth in this hot water and put it on the naval area to get relief from menstrual cramps

Decreasing salt consumption: Decrease your salt consumption a day or two before the start of periods. This helps the kidney in discharging the excess fluid from the body

Fish: Most of the fishes contain Omega-3 fatty acids that have anti-inflammatory properties. This would minimize the cramps and let you be active through the day during periods

Red Meat: Red meat is loaded with iron and zinc, both of which get depleted during menses. Having red meat can balance these two minerals in the body

Aloe Vera: Make a juice out of the Aloe Vera leaf. Take this with honey 2-3 times a day. Do not store this juice for next day, make fresh juice everyday

Radish (Hindi: Mooli): Have radish and radish leaves to decrease the cramps

Cinnamon (Hindi: Dalchini): Add cinnamon to your tea or sprinkle the powder on your breakfast. Cinnamon has some antispasmodic properties that help relieve menstrual pains

Calcium and Magnesium: Calcium is known to lessen the amount of pain in menstrual cramps. Cheese, yoghurt, almonds, peanuts etc are known to be very rich in calcium. Check out the complete information about Calcium in this article. Magnesium helps the body absorb calcium effectively. Magnesium rich food include tuna fish, dried figs, banana, raw barley, brown rice and vegetables likes beans, broccoli, beetroot, okra (Hindi: Bhindi), Pumpkin

Fruits: Fruits like papaya (unripe) and other citrus fruits are especially helpful in treating menstrual pain. Having various fruits during menstrual periods ensure that the vitamins and minerals lost during bleeding are replenished

Chamomile (Hindi: Babunphul): Add 2 tablespoons of dried chamomile flowers to a cup of boiling water and let it boil for another 5 minutes. Add honey or sugar and drink it like a tea. This gives relief from cramps during periods. You can start drinking this decoction 2-3 days before the start of menstrual periods and continue it during periods as well

Parsley (Hindi: Ajmooda): Parsley is very effective in regulating periods and reducing the painful cramps during menstrual cycle. Mix 75ml of parsley, beetroot, carrot and cucumber and drink it for relief from the pain

Banana: Cook banana leaf in little oil and have it with curd. This controls excess blood flow and gives relief from cramps

Sexual intercourse: Sex increases the blood flow in the congested organs and helps you get relief from menstrual pain

Keep yourself warm: Curl up in a blanket and sleep. Keeping yourself warm and taking rest give relief in menstrual cramps

Sesame seeds (Hindi: Til): Sesame seeds are very effective in getting relief from menstrual pain. Add some to a glassful of water and have it twice a day

Buckwheat (Hindi: Kuttu): Buckwheat, when taken with Vitamin C controls the bleeding during menstruation. You can have it in the form of pancakes

Neem: Mix ½ spoon of neem leaf juice with 1/4th spoon of ginger juice. This would help reduce stomach ache

Regular exercise and yoga: Regular exercise increases the release of endorphins which help in controlling cramps. Yoga stretches also gives relief from pain and relaxes the body

Heating pad: Some women get relief from hot water bag on abdomen and back. You can also make a heating pad by filling a sock with flaxseed (Hindi: Alsi/ Tisi) or uncooked rice and heating it in microwave for 2-3 minutes

Mango tree bark: In case of heavy flow, mix 10ml of mango bark juice and 120ml of water. Take this as syrup every hour. This controls the heavy flow of blood

Essential oils: Add 10 drops of lavender oil and 4 drops of marjoram essential oil in a bathtub with hot water. Soak yourself in this for 20-30 minutes to relax your muscles. Make sure the water is comfortably hot and does not burn the skin

Mineral water bath: Put a tablespoon of rock salt and a tablespoon of baking soda in a tub of warm water and soak yourself for at least 20 minutes. This would relax the muscles and give relief from menstrual cramps

Marigold (Hindi: Genda ka phool): Marigold is known to be a very useful herb in treating menstrual cramps. Take 1-2 tablespoons of marigold extract twice a day during periods. This also regulates the bleeding during periods