Period pain, home remedies and medication tips to reduce menstrual cramps

Women usually experience menstrual cramps on the first and second day of the period.

For a lot of women around the world, period pain is a serious problem. It’s not an excuse to bunk work or skip college. It’s a real health condition that hampers day to day activities and life.

Period pain is known as dysmenorrhea and could be primary when it is not associated with any pelvic pathology. It is usually seen in post-puberty age groups (18 to 25 years). Secondary dysmenorrhea is associated with pelvic pathology such as fibroids, endometriosis, adenomyosis uterus and pelvic inflammatory disease.

“Most women have cramping pain on the first and second day of their menstrual cycle, and often experience heavy bleeding. In some women, especially those with pelvic pathologies or women using Intrauterine Contraceptive Devices (IUCD), pain might start few days before the period begins. Therefore, it is important to rule out any pelvic pathology before starting treatment,” advises Dr Alka Kumar, consultant obstetrician and gynecologist, Fortis SL Raheja Hospital, Mumbai.

How to reduce period pain:

A few changes in your diet and lifestyle can lead to decreased period pain. A healthy diet consisting of homemade meals, which includes plenty of vegetables, fruits and salads (these are high in fiber), is helpful. “Incorporating cow’s ghee in your diet is helpful. It is important to cut down on oils, sugar, chocolates, pastries and maida (refined flour) based food,” says Dr Kumar.

“Increasing magnesium intake helps in reducing the cramps, as it acts on the nerves and muscles,” says Dr Manjiri Mehta, consultant gynecologist, obstetrician and laparoscopic surgeon, Fortis Hiranandani Hospital, Mumbai. Magnesium is obtained from spinach and almonds.

Regular exercise helps tremendously as it helps release endorphins or feel good hormones, that help in reducing pain. It also acts as a great distraction. “Exercising half an hour daily relives pelvic congestion,” says Dr Kumar.

Ways to handle period pain:

If underlying problems such as cysts, fibroids, endometriosis are ruled out, then period pain can be tackled in many ways. “Herbal teas like peppermint tea may help in reducing cramp-related pain. You could also try cramp bark but do seek your doctor’s before consuming any products with cramp bark,” suggests Dr Mehta.

Using a heating bad or pressing a hot water bag to the area where you’re experience cramps is an easy remedy. “Massaging the lower abdominal area with lavender, clary sage or marjoram oil is beneficial. These aromatic oils can be used individually or in combination. Acupuncture as alternative medicine can be useful, but must be done by a trained person. Fish oil and Vitamin B1 supplements are also useful,” says Dr Mehta.

When it comes to medication, a small dose of painkillers (NSAID) can go a long way in making a woman pain free. Simple analgesics like Paracetamol and antispasmodic drugs like Drotaverine often work too. A standard oral contraceptive pill can also take care of the menstrual cramps. “But all of these options can be explored only after consulting a doctor,” says Dr Mehta. At the same time, Dr Kumar cautions, “In certain cases, oral contraceptive pills suppress ovulation, decrease blood flow and give the benefit of contraception.”

There a few more options. “Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAID) like Mefenamic Acid, Ibuprofen, etc, are for symptomatic relief, and are limited to specific days of discomfort. These drugs do not interfere with ovulation. These too can be taken after consulting the doctor,” says Dr Kumar. “For endometriosis, drugs such as GnRH Analogues (agonists), oral contraceptive pills and Danazol may be helpful. These can be taken after consulting a gynecologist.”

These are some easy ways of reducing the menstrual pain. If the pain is severe, persistent and interferes with your routine, one must consult a doctor immediately.