Remember when you had those really bad menstrual cramps that would make you double up in pain? This would, of course, be accompanied by those assurances from people around you that it is "not really that bad" or "it happens to everyone". Well, unlike all the well meaning assurances, severe menstrual cramps are a painful reality that affects women, every month during her menstrual cycle. They are concentrated more around the abdominal and pelvic regions during her menstrual periods. Around fifteen percent of the women suffer from severe forms of these cramps sometime in life. The medical term for these cramps is dysmenorrhea, and they usually affect in the first or second day of the menstrual cycle. Here is a look at what causes these painful cramps in women.
Dysmenorrhea is caused by the excessive release of prostaglandins in the body. While the actual job of this chemical is to regulate the involuntary muscles of the body such as the blood vessels and intestines, an excessive release of it may result in painful muscular contractions. So when the uterus opens and closes to release blood, the lining of the uterine wall releases the chemicals. There are essentially two major types in these menstrual cramps; primary and secondary dysmenorrhea.
Primary Dysmenorrhea: This form of menstrual cramping is not caused by any gynecological problem, but is instead caused six months to a year following the menarche.
Secondary Dysmenorrhea: The secondary form of these cramps is caused due to an underlying medical condition such as endometriosis. This is characterized by abnormal location of the uterus tissues such as the fallopian tube and the side walls of the ovaries. Other medical conditions that trigger off severe menstrual cramps include pelvic inflammatory disease, uterine fibroid tumors, and intrauterine devices.
Most of the time, the severe cramps are also accompanied by headaches, nausea, severe vomiting, constipation, and diarrhea. Some of the effective relief measures include:
- A healthy diet rich in calcium, zinc, and vitamins are known to be effective in relieving the cramps and reduce bloating as well.
- Drinking warm beverages such as tea can help.
- Apply heat pads or place a hot water bottle on the stomach to reduce the severity of the pain.
- Avoid standing for long periods of time and get plenty of sleep and rest.
- Although the idea may not sound quite appealing, but a gentle workout goes a long way in relieving the pain. Research has shown that regular workouts are a great way to reduce the severity of the cramps.
- Stock up on pineapples and pineapple juice which are quite effective in reducing the severity of the cramps.
- Over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen, naproxen, ketoprofen, and prescription pain relievers are known to lower the production of prostaglandin and lessen its effect.
- Certain herbs and herbal teas are known to lessen the pain. You can also opt for acupressure techniques and reflexology to reduce the pain.
- In severe cases, the doctor may prescribe oral contraceptives and birth control pills, which are known to reduce the excessive production of prostaglandins and thus help relieve the pain.