Some women rarely feel any pain during their menstrual cycle while others suffer with excruciating cramps every single month. So, is this normal? Moreover, what causes painful periods?
Is it Normal to Feel Pain During a Period?
While a little cramping is definitely nothing to worry about, severe pain during your periods is not normal and could be a sign of something else.
The most common cause of severe period pain is a condition known as endometriosis, which is a condition I which tissue like that which lines the uterus grows outside of the womb. This tissue is commonly found in the fallopian tubes or the ovaries but can be found in other parts of the body too (such as the tissue that lines the pelvis). Although rare, endometrial tissue can sometimes be found outside the pelvic area.
Another cause of severe period pain is adenomyosis, which is like endometriosis but where the endometrial tissue is found within the walls of the uterus and not outside of it. Both adenomyosis and endometriosis are common causes of severe menstrual cramps, but they are not the only ones. Women with uterine fibroids (non-cancerous growths found in and around the uterus), pelvic inflammatory disease (often caused by untreated STDs), and primary dysmenorrhea (the name given to painful menstrual cramps not associated with another condition) are also causes.
How to Deal with Severe Painful Periods
It is important to identify the cause of your painful periods so that the pain can be effectively managed. It is advisable to seek advice from a doctor if the pain is having a negative impact on your life. For example, if you are struggling to get out of bed and go to school, college, or work, then you should seek advice.
For conditions such as endometriosis and adenomyosis, a doctor might prescribe pain medication such as paracetamol or ibuprofen. Hormone medication that might include contraceptive pills, patches, or an implant might also help to manage the condition and the associated pain. If the pain still does not respond, then surgical intervention may be necessary.
For those with primary dysmenorrhea, pain medication is usually recommended. The pain management physicians at KindlyMD say that ibuprofen can be particularly helpful because it blocks the production of prostaglandins, which is that which causes the uterus to contract and tighten, resulting in the pain.
You can also try other methods, such as using a hot water bottle on your tummy or a heat pad on your lower back (if you are experiencing pain here). It is also wise to avoid certain foods and drinks, such as those that contain caffeine.
Alternative therapies are commonly used by those who experience severe menstrual cramps. Breathing and relaxation exercises such as meditation can be particularly helpful, as can yoga. Some people swear by a back massage, while others find that acupressure and acupuncture relieve their pain.
Do You Need to See a Pain Doctor?
If your period pain cannot be pinpointed to an underlying cause, your doctor might suggest that you visit a pain clinic to speak to expert doctors with knowledge and experience of how alternative methods can relieve pain.
There are many different treatments that can help with painful periods, and while some work for some women, they do not work for everyone. A pain doctor will work with you to find out more about your diet and lifestyle as well as family history to find a treatment plan that will work best for you.
It might be that changes to your diet and lifestyle are all you need. Alternatively, it could be that a combination of vitamins and alternative therapies work best.