For most women, menstruation or period isn’t that much of a hassle, since it occurs every month for the majority of their lives. However, in some cases, periods cause dread because they come with such intense menstrual cramps that sometimes, tasks as simple as moving about from one place to another can become a painful and difficult task. So today, we take a look at some of the basics of period cramps- what are the causes, symptoms and perhaps some natural ways of dealing with them.
What are menstrual cramps?
Menstrual cramps or period pains, which are the common terms used for the medical phenomenon known as dysmenorrhea, is the occurrence of cramping or throbbing pain in the lower region of the abdomen and/or lower back during an individual’s menstrual cycle or some time before the menstruation starts.
The degree of pain differs from one person to another. While some people may suffer from mild discomfort and annoyance, in some cases, the pain is so extreme that it makes every day movement and activities impossible.
Are all types of menstrual cramps the same?
There are mainly two types of period cramps, known as primary menstrual cramps and secondary menstrual cramps respectively.
• Primary menstrual cramps : Primary menstrual cramps occur in women during the onset of menses, that is when a woman starts menstruating for the first time as she hits puberty, and generally continues for two or three years after that. The pain is usually concentrated along the lower parts of the back and abdomen, and over the years, the level of pain generally tends to decrease.
• Secondary Menstrual cramps : These cramps are usually more severe than primary menstrual cramps and occur when a woman has some disorder or abnormality of her reproductive organs. For instance, fibroids in the ovaries and uterus can cause secondary menstrual cramps.
What are the symptoms of period pains?
Light symptoms of menstrual cramps include:
• Light pain across the lower back region.
• Pain along the lower abdomen and sometimes the thigh.
• Dizziness or a certain light headedness.
• A feeling of fullness or bloating.
Severe symptoms of menstrual cramps include:
• Nausea and vomiting.
• Loose motion and problems in digestion.
• Constipation, in some cases.
Which disorders can cause period cramps?
Some of the disorders that gynecologists generally associate with increased pain and intense menstrual cramps are :
• Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID): This is caused by bacterial infection and can affect the vagina, the cervix, the uterus, and if left untreated, can cause serious damage to reproductive health.
• Endometriosis: This is a complication where the lining of the uterus is found outside it. This means the contractions are more frequent and more severe.
• Uterine Fibroids: Fibroids are tumors or tissue material found along the lining of the uterus and can make menstruation extremely painful.
• Cervical Stenosis: In this condition, the opening of the cervix is extremely small, which in turn, makes the flow of menstrual fluid very difficult.
• Adenomyosis: This happens when the outermost lining of the uterine wall starts growing into the muscles of the uterus.
How to treat menstrual cramps?
Various gynecologists and general physicians recommend different household methods to relieve the pain of period cramps. Of course, the results vary from person to person and more often than not, women make use of more than one household remedies. Some of the most common, counter top methods for relieving menstrual pain are:
• Avoiding intake of caffeine containing products like coffee.
• Massaging gently the affected areas at regular intervals. This promotes blood flow to the uterine walls.
• Taking medications for pain including pain killers. Of course, you should clear this with your doctor first.
• Taking a bath in lukewarm water to relieve the muscles.
• Placing a heated pad or a bottle containing warm water on your lower abdomen or lower back, depending on where the pain is.
• Some women have reported that drinking lukewarm water with ginger in it also helps.
• Using essential oils.
Does the use of essential oils actually help in relieving period pain?
Essential oils for menstrual cramps are a fairly recent way of treating menstrual pain. Nonetheless, they are extremely popular because not only are they inexpensive and easily available, but they are completely natural and do not have any side effects. Of course, this goes without saying that the effects of using essential oils vary from person to person.
In a blind test conducted in the year 2012, the results showed that the use of a cream containing some essential oils lead to a dramatic reduction in the pain levels during menstruation.
Which essential oils help reduce menstrual cramps?
Some of the popular essential oils used and recommended by women across the world are :
• Lavender essential oil: Lavender oil is extremely helpful in relieving muscular pain as well as lowering levels of anxiety and depression, which are generally associated with periods. Having a bath with lavender oil is very helpful.
• Rose essential oil: This is particularly helpful for women who suffer from irregular menstruation, because rose oil consists of emmenagogues, a substance which triggers menstruation at regular intervals. It also relieves muscular cramps and helps with mood swings.
• Cinnamon essential oil: Cinnamon has natural pain relieving tendencies and when ingested during menstruation, it relieves bloating and gas formation, which can occur as a result of bloating and constipation.
• Clary sage essential oil: Some studies suggest that clary sage essential oil, when taken during and before menstruation, can not only help reduce the pain level, but it can also help delay the onset of menopause and its associated side effects like hormonal imbalance.
• Ginger essential oil: Ginger is one of the most important and coveted herbal substance on earth. It has anti-inflammatory properties, which helps deal with menstruation pain and regulate period flow due to the presence of a substance called Zingibain.
• Chamomile essential oil: Both chamomile essential oil as well as chamomile tea helps regulate periods, and has a soothing effect on inflamed and painful muscles. It also helps deal with stress and anxiety, which could otherwise have contributed to increased levels of menstrual pain.
• Turmeric essential oil: When taken in oil form, turmeric not only helps alleviate muscular pain and pain of the lower abdomen, it helps prevent bloating and has the added effect of acting as a cleanser for the liver and the stomach.
So there you have it, some of the basics of menstrual cramps and some of the over the counter methods of preventing them. But before you try out any method, it is important that you consult your doctor or seek any professional medical advice because every individual’s body has a different reaction to different forms of treatment.
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