Menstrual cramps (also known as dysmenorrhea) affect many women, and can seriously interfere with daily life. There are actually two types of dysmenorrhea: primary, which includes the common menstrual cramps most women experience right before and at the start of their period; and secondary, which is caused by problems in the reproductive organs.
- Aching pain in the abdomen and/or across the low back (can be severe at times)
- Feeling pressure in the abdomen
- Sometimes pain is reported in the hips and inner thighs
- Upset stomach, vomiting or diarrhea
Causes of Menstrual Cramps
Common (primary) menstrual cramps are caused by contractions in the uterus that occur during a woman’s period. Secondary cramping can be caused by a number of reproductive concerns, including:
- Endometriosis, a condition in which the tissue that lines the uterus grows in outside the uterus
- Pelvic inflammatory disease
- Fibroids, which are growths on the inner walls of the uterus
- Scarring or narrowing of the cervix (the lower part of the uterus)
- IUDs (intrauterine devices used for birth control)
If you are experiencing abdominal pain and cramping for more than a few days right before or during your period, you should consult your doctor to rule out the above conditions.
Tips for Reducing Common Cramps
- Watch your diet. Diets high in animal fats and sugar cause more inflammation in the body, which can result in more painful periods.
- Try heat. A hot water bottle, heating pad or warm bath can help alleviate symptoms.
- Exercise. Aerobic exercise and stretching exercises like yoga have been shown in studies to soothe cramps.
- Take fish oil and vitamin B1. Research has shown that this combination both reduces the pain of menstrual cramps and lessens their duration.
The Naturopathic physicians at Desert Wellness Center are well-versed in using safe, effective, natural treatments for menstrual cramps. We will work with you to create a customized treatment plan that might include: