Menstruating women suffer from menstrual pain, also called dysmenorrhea, which affects a large portion of the world’s population. Most commonly, NSAIDs like ibuprofen, naproxen, and mefenamic acid treat period pain. A hormonal IUD or progestin-releasing pill can work here as well. In this blog post, I will outline some of the non-pharmacological options for menstrual pain.
Ginger supplementation appears to reduce period pain without the gastrointestinal and other side effects that often relate to NSAIDs (especially when used for long periods or at high doses). Some studies have shown that the efficacy of ginger at decreasing period pain is similar to that of painkillers.
Period pain can certainly be treated with movement. A few studies have shown stretching exercises, and yoga poses to decrease menstrual pain during the luteal and menstrual phases.
There is evidence that treatments such as acupuncture, TENS, chiropractic, osteopathy, and massage can all reduce symptoms of dysmenorrhea. Some of these may not be available to you, but massaging yourself or asking a friend or family member can be helpful.
When it comes to menstrual pain, a hot water bottle or heating pad can help. You should use heat in moderation to avoid damaging your body (I’ve seen a lot of mottled bellies in endometriosis patients from overusing heat!).
Hydration & Nutrition:
Your nutrition and hydration status affect your period pain – dehydration, not fueling your body properly, dieting, eating large amounts of red meat, skipping breakfast, and consuming more trans-fats can all contribute to period pain while fruits and vegetables, eating healthy foods, and drinking adequate water can relieve period pain.
Vitamin D adequacy:
The body uses vitamin D for various functions. Dysmenorrhea and PMS have been linked to vitamin D deficiency, and when vitamin D deficiency is correct, dysmenorrhea is improved.
Sleep and Stress:
A lack of sleep and unmanaged stress can affect your period pain, inflammatory responses, and pain perception, so ensure you are getting enough rest and recovery in your day.
Note: Period pain is becoming normalized, but it shouldn’t. Discomfort is common, but not pain. In the event of severe, persistent, intractable, and refractory period pain, do a full workup. Tailor a treatment plan to your underlying condition, such as endometriosis or adenomyosis.