TIPS FOR MANAGING MENSTRUAL PAIN
Tips for managing menstrual pain
Having menstrual pain is no fun. If you do have menstrual pain, you're not alone – up to 90% of girls and women have pain around the time of their period.1,2 The good news is that there are many things you can do to help ease your pain.
What is menstrual pain?
If you have pain and cramping around the time of your menstrual period, this is perfectly normal. It usually feels like a cramping pain in the lower part of the stomach, although you may also have some pain in your lower back and at the top of your legs.3
You’ll find that the pain starts around the same time as your menstrual bleeding or just before. It can last for around a day, although some people may suffer for a couple of days.3 For most girls and women, the pain is generally mild, but around 10% can suffer from severe pain that stops them from going to school or work.3
Easing pain without medicines
There are a number of things you can do to help ease your pain.
You might not realize it, but putting a little bit of heat on the stomach can actually help ease your menstrual pain!3, 4 Applying a heat patch or putting a hot water bottle on your stomach might be what you need.
There’s some evidence to suggest that exercise may reduce menstrual pain.5 This could be any form of exercise that suits you.
To learn more about some exercises that can help your menstrual pain go to Exercise Cards: Wall Squats and Cat Stretch.
Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS)
TENS machines work by sending small electrical impulses into the nerves in the skin over the stomach, helping to block pain. This may sound a little scary, but evidence suggests it can ease menstrual pain.6
Some people use massage to ease their body aches and pains. Try massaging the painful area of your stomach with gentle, circular motions to see if that works for you.7
Easing pain with medicines
If you find you need some extra relief, then over-the-counter pain relievers have been proven to relieve menstrual pain.8 Research shows that medicines containing paracetamol plus caffeine can be particularly useful.9
When to see a doctor
If you’re at all worried about your menstrual pain, ask your pharmacist or doctor for advice. In particular, you should see a doctor if any of the following apply to you:3,10
- you have severe pain
- you have abdominal pain even when it’s not your menstrual period
- you also have bleeding in between your menstrual periods or your bleeding is heavier or longer than usual
- you also have an abnormal discharge from your vagina, especially if it is thick or smells bad7
- you also have a fever.7
Menstrual pain is a normal part of growing up and being a woman. While it may be hard to deal with at first, there are things you can do to ease your pain so you can find the right way for you to manage it.
- Jamieson DJ, Steege JF. The prevalence of dysmenorrhea, dyspareunia, pelvic pain, and irritable bowel syndrome in primary care practices. Obstet Gynecol. 1996; 87(1): 55–58.
- Parker MA, et al. The menstrual disorder of teenagers (MDOT) study: determining the typical menstrual patterns and menstrual disturbance in a large population-based study of Australian teenagers. BJOG. 2010: 11: 186-192.
- Patient UK. Period pain (dysmenorrhoea). Available at http://www.patient.co.uk/health/Period-Pain-(Dysmenorrhoea).htm. Accessed July 2010.
- UK Clinical Knowledge Summaries. Dysmenorrhoea. Available at: http://www.cks.nhs.uk/dysmenorrhoea. Accessed July 2010.
- Brown J, Brown S. Exercise for dysmenorrhoea. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2010, Issue 2. Art. No.: CD004142. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD004142.pub2.
- Proctor M, et al. Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation for primary dysmenorrhoea. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2002, Issue 1. Art. No.: CD002123. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD002123.
- UK NHS Choices. Periods – painful. Available at http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Periods-painful/Pages/Introduction.aspx. Accessed July 2010.
- Milsom I, et al. Comparison of the efficacy and safety of nonprescription doses of naproxen and naproxen sodium with ibuprofen, acetaminophen, and placebo in the treatment of primary dysmenorrhea: a pooled analysis of five studies. Clin Ther. 2002; 24:1384–1400.
- Ali Z, et al. Efficacy of a paracetamol and caffeine combination in the treatment of the key symptoms of primary dysmenorrhoea. Curr Med Res Opin. 2007; 23: 841–851.
- Medline. Menstrual periods – heavy, prolonged or irregular. Available at: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/003263.htm. Accessed July 2010.