It can be difficult to determine if your period pain is ‘normal’ because we are taught to expect some level of discomfort when it comes to our menstrual cycles. I speak to so many people who are putting up with severe period pain because they think it’s normal or there is nothing that they can do to reduce it, so I’ve put together some information about what is considered ‘normal’ and what could be causing your period pain.
First, let’s define what period pain is and how it might be caused:
Is it primary or secondary period pain?
Primary Dysmenorrhea: This is the most common type of period pain and is not associated with any underlying medical condition. It usually begins 1-2 days before menstruation and lasts for a few days into the period. The pain tends to decrease with age and may improve after childbirth.
Secondary Dysmenorrhea: This type of period pain is usually caused by an underlying medical condition, such as endometriosis, fibroids, or pelvic inflammatory disease. Secondary dysmenorrhea typically starts later in life and may be more severe than primary dysmenorrhea. If you have symptoms of secondary dysmenorrhea, it’s important to seek medical evaluation and treatment.
Signs that your period pain is not ‘normal’
Severe period pain is characterised by intense, debilitating pain during menstruation that significantly interferes with a person’s daily activities and quality of life. While pain perception can vary from person to person, there are certain signs and symptoms that may indicate severe period pain:
- Intensity of Pain: Severe period pain typically involves intense, crampy, or sharp pain in the lower abdomen and pelvis. The pain may be so severe that it becomes difficult to concentrate on tasks or engage in normal daily activities.
- Duration: The pain associated with severe dysmenorrhea often lasts for an extended period, typically more than just a day or two. It can persist throughout the menstrual period and may even extend beyond the period.
- Resistance to Over-the-Counter Medications: Severe period pain may not respond adequately to over-the-counter pain relievers like ibuprofen or naproxen.
- Accompanying Symptoms: In addition to intense pelvic pain, severe dysmenorrhea may be accompanied by other symptoms, such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, headaches, and fatigue.
- Disability and Lifestyle Impact: Individuals with severe period pain may find it challenging to perform daily tasks, attend school or work, or engage in social activities during their menstrual periods. It can significantly reduce their overall quality of life.
- Use of Heating Pads or TENS machine: People with severe period pain often resort to various remedies, such as heating pads, hot baths, or specific exercises, in an attempt to alleviate the pain.
What can you do if you suspect your period pain is not normal?
- Rule out any secondary causes: Endometriosis, adenomyosis, food intolerances or uterine fibroids can contribute to painful periods, so ruling these out is your number 1 step.
- Supplement with magnesium: A good quality, high dose of magnesium can do wonders for a painful period.
- Move your body every day: Studies have shown that regular exercise correlates with less period pain. Finding an activity you love is the key, and it has many other wonderful health benefits, such as blood sugar management and prevention of cardiovascular and metabolic disease.
- Stay away from inflammatory foods: One of the key treatment strategies for painful periods is reducing inflammation because this can increase period pain. Avoid too much takeaway, processed baked goods, large amounts of processed sugar, alcohol and caffeine.
- Make sure you are moving your bowels every day: This has a twofold benefit, one, constipation can cause bloating and distension that will make period pain worse, and two, not emptying your bowel every day means your gut bacteria can recirculate estgrogens that are sitting in there for removal which can increase your period pain.
What are some herbs and supplements that can help with period pain
Magnesium is a mineral that plays a crucial role in various bodily functions, including muscle and nerve function, blood glucose control and blood pressure regulation. It can help with period pain because it relaxes muscles, has an anti-inflammatory effect and may regulate the production of prostaglandins that can cause an increase in pain by increasing uterine contractions.
Curcumin is the active ingredient in turmeric and is a potent anti-inflammatory herb.
Known as NAC for short, this nutrient is a form of cysteine – an amino acid the body can naturally produce. NAC is a potent antioxidant, and it supports our liver’s ability to detoxify hormones. Recent research has shown that NAC is helpful for reducing period pain in conditions such as endometriosis, as well as supporting fertility.
Broccoli sprouts contain compounds that can help with estrogen metabolism, which is a hormone that can increase period pain when high. They also have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects which reduce oxidative stress that can increase period pain.
Zinc is anti-inflammatory, supports hormonal balance and regulates muscle function – including the smooth muscles of the uterus.
Where to next?
If you have severe period pain, your first step is getting to the bottom of why and ruling out any underlying conditions. If you are suffering from period pain, get in touch to find out how I can help.