A monthly period is not the only event a woman anticipates in her everyday life. Along with the regular monthly cycle comes other occurrences such as menstrual pains or cramps that can be severe or intolerable. It is no wonder that women with severe cramps regard their monthly period with so much dread.
Menstrual cramps, or dysmenorrhea, are one of the most common health care problems that women suffer during their reproductive years. It has been estimated that as many as 30 to 50 percent of all women suffer from pain during their menstrual period, with the incidence being highest in younger women, from teenagers to women in their thirties. At least 10 percent of younger women have severe symptoms that some can not do their normal activities anymore. Some have to miss work, school, or other important functions because they can not handle the pain.
A substance called prostagladins are the cause of most symptoms with dysmenorrhea. These are produced by the body and found in the uterine lining. When the lining starts to shed with menstruation, they are released, which will then cause the uterus to contract forcefully, which is the reason for much of the cramping itself.
Menstrual cramps start a day or more before the actual menstruation. This can usually last from one to three days. They are usually felt in the lower or middle abdomen. The pain can spread to the hips, thighs and back. The pain rises to a peak and falls, then starts all over again. This is due to the contractions of the uterus that underlie the cramps. Though cramps are experienced by women, the severity of it varies from woman to woman. Some women have cramps that are barely noticeable, others may feel excruciating pain. They may also experience dizziness, weakness or chills. Abdominal muscles and leg spasms also occur with severe cramps.
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or NSAIDs are the main treatment for menstrual cramps. There are different medications and brands to choose from but Ibuprofen (Motrin) or Naproxen (Aleve) are some of the most popular NSAIDs in the market today. They work by stopping the body from making prostagladins and prevents blood clotting. Different formulations work well on different women, this is because production of prostagladins is a series of events. Different drugs in the NSAID category work on different stages of the process. Generic Ibuprofen is a good one to take for starters and it is also the cheapest. For severe cramping, your physician might recommend low-dose oral contraceptives to prevent ovulation. This may reduce that production of prostaglandins and the severity of the cramps. There is no way to predict which drug will work best on a particular woman that is why it is still best to consult a physician if menstrual cramps are becoming a regular thing and hinders a woman’s day-to-day activities.
However, there are a few self-care tips to help you reduce the pain from menstrual cramps. Once you feel the pain, use a heating pad in your abdomen and take a hot bath to ease your cramps. Exercising regularly has also been shown to help alleviate menstrual cramps. Exercise increases the release of endorphins, the body’s natural painkillers. Getting adequate rest will help one’s body to be less vulnerable to pain.
Although menstrual cramps are generally related to pain, it is also closely tied to ovulatory cycles. So, women should not be always fearful about having menstrual cramps during and before their monthly period. It is an important sign of a woman’s potential for fertility.