Dysmenorrhea refers to extremely painful periods from uterine contractions, and can be classified into two types:
- Primary dysmenorrhea, which is painful periods not caused by a disease or condition.
- Secondary dysmenorrhea, which is painful periods caused by a disease or condition.
Mild symptoms of primary dysmenorrhea are normally nausea, vomiting, headaches, backaches, diarrhea, and severe cramps during your period, which usually lasts for a day or two.
Secondary dysmenorrhea is caused by some of the following diseases:
- Endometriosis, a condition where tissue starts to grow outside the uterus.
- Fibroids, cell growths on the outside, inside, or in the wall of the uterus.
- Cervical stenosis, narrowing of the opening to the uterus.
- Copper intrauterine device (IUD).
- Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID).
- Premenstrual syndrome (PMS).
- Sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
- Stress and anxiety.
Any of these conditions will require you to see a doctor to diagnose you and to give you the best treatment for your condition.
Here are some tips for reducing the discomfort of painful cramps:
- Heat. A hot water bottle or heating pad on your abdomen and lower back will relieve pain. A warm bath can also help reduce discomfort.
- Massage. Massage the area around your lower belly using a light circular motion with your fingertips.
- Relax. Practice relaxation techniques such as yoga and meditation.
- Hydrate. Drinking enough water during your period will help avoid painful bloating.
- Vitamins. Try vitamins B6, calcium, and magnesium supplements, especially if you’re experiencing pain from PMS.
- Medicine. Over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medicine such as ibuprofen can help relieve pain. Take one a day before you expect your period to start, and continue taking it regularly for the first few days of your period.
- Hormonal contraceptives. Low-dose hormonal oral contraceptive pills are effective in regulating and lightening periods, and reducing symptoms of PMS, including menstrual cramps.
- Exercise. Endorphins are hormones that make you feel good, and are usually released when you get active. Although they don’t make the pain go away, they can distract you so you will not notice the discomfort.