K A Wilks has researched 10 ways to relieve menstrual cramps and explains the science behind them, so you can stay informed and figure out which of these home remedies for periods works for you.
If you experience agonizing menstrual cramps, you may be willing to try anything to ease the pain. The good news is, you’re not alone; around 60% of people with menstrual cramps have them so badly that they interfere with daily life. But what are some of the best remedies, and why do they work? This article will tell you everything you need to know.
What Are Menstrual Cramps?
Menstrual cramps occur before and during the menstrual period. They are a natural part of a woman’s reproductive cycle. If you did not get pregnant before your period, your body must shed the lining of your uterus. Every cramp is your body trying to get that lining out. Prostaglandin is the hormone that makes the uterus contract (remember that).
Now that we know what menstrual cramps are, what can we do about them? Here are ten methods to help you get through that time of the month.
1. Use a Hot Water Bottle or Bath
A hot water bottle or steamy bath can feel excellent on the worst menstrual cramps. Heat is one of those easy, tried-and-true remedies that has stuck around because of its efficacy.
Heat does the job, yes, but why does it work? Heat encourages blood flow to the affected area. This increases flow and decreases pain, so be prepared!
2. Do Yoga Poses During Your Period
Certain yoga poses can be good at easing menstrual cramps. King among them is the pigeon pose, but cat-cow, child’s pose, bridge, and many others may also help ease your pain.
The pigeon pose focuses on the hips—the area under the most stress during your period. Supine twists and other poses that exercise the hips may relieve stress and speed up your period. The jury is still out on whether inversions are good or bad during your period, but they may be worth a try.
3. Take Iron Supplements
Some people may feel lightheaded during their periods. If you are among them, consider taking iron supplements. People who experience these symptoms may not have enough iron in their diets.
Iron is a key ingredient in hemoglobin, the part of your blood that carries oxygen to the rest of your body. And since menstruation causes someone to shed a lot of blood, iron supplements are often a good idea. You can feel woozy during your period for the same reason you feel off-kilter after giving blood.
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4. Drink Herbal Teas During Your Period
Herbal teas are a common remedy for menstrual cramps. The most successful teas for cramps, by far, are mint (especially peppermint) and chamomile.
Certain herbs have antispasmodic properties. That means they reduce the severity of muscle spasms. Mint and chamomile are among the easiest to find.
However, it is important to note that not all teas will cure what ails you. Caffeine can make your period worse. Avoid teas with caffeine like green and oolong; they are double-edged swords that may not help overall.
5. Use Over the Counter Pain Relief
One of the most accessible methods of relieving menstrual cramps is to use an over-the-counter pain relief medication.
Cramps are painful, and the pain-relieving compounds found in most pain medications will work just as well on your menstrual cramps as they do on everything else. There are several theories as to how and why acetaminophen (paracetamol) works; for now, just know that it treats pain and inflammation, which are both in play during your period. If your cramps are minor, a Tylenol or two might be enough.
6. Use Magnesium to Relieve Menstrual Cramps
Most of us are familiar with taking some elements straight off the periodic table: calcium, iron, and potassium, for example. But what about magnesium? Does this mean epsom salt baths are a good idea, too? Not many people think about magnesium, so why do several sources recommend taking magnesium during your period?
Magnesium helps the uterine muscles relax. It also reduces the prostaglandins that cause pain in the first place. If you haven’t tried magnesium already, it’s worth a shot!
7. Do Exercise (and have Sex)
You might be surprised to learn that working out can ease your menstrual pains. But even if all you want to do is stay in bed, going to the gym might make you feel better. Swimming is a surprisingly pleasant form of exercise during your period. (Don’t worry about getting blood in the water; your body won’t release menstrual blood if you’re submerged.)
You may be familiar with the phrase “no pain, no gain” regarding exercise. But the truth is, exercise releases something called beta-endorphins. These decrease the pain that comes with your gains; they’re sometimes called “human morphine.” Exercise also reduces stress.
Disclaimer: Everyone’s body is different, especially during this time of the month. If your period coincides with dizziness or other symptoms, exercise may not be the best thing for you.
If you feel up for it, sex is also effective. That directly targets the problematic area with similar results!
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8. Stay Hydrated During Your Period
Aside from staying hydrated being good general advice, drinking water is especially important during your period.
While drinking water may not prevent cramps directly, you should keep it up because you are losing water with that uterine lining. Water helps decrease other symptoms, such as bloating. And if you’re exercising, drink more water by default!
9. Take Vitamins for Menstrual Cramps
We’ve covered most of the minerals that can help during your period. Now it’s time to talk about vitamins. Doctors recommend taking vitamins B, D, and E when that time comes around.
Going down the list…
- Vitamin B eases menstrual pain and restores energy. Take a B-complex to cover most bases.
- Vitamin D helps the body process calcium. Believe it or not, a healthy, balanced calcium level can help relieve bad cramps.
- Vitamin E helps regulate prostaglandin levels, which eases menstrual cramps.
10. Make Dietary Adjustments
You may have noticed a lot of vitamins and minerals being mentioned. There are ways to get those aside from your diet instead of from a bottle. Here are some quick items to buy if you want to avoid all the pills:
Dietary changes do similar things to taking a lot of vitamins and minerals: you’re giving your body something it is losing en masse. Some of these options also have antispasmodic properties. Do your homework and cook something new; you won’t know what works if you never try it!
When Should You See a Doctor?
If your cramps are so bad that they interfere with your daily activities, you may want to seek professional help. Here are some signs that may warrant a talk with your healthcare provider:
- Blood clots that are bigger than a quarter.
- Menstrual periods that last more than a week.
- Pain that prevents you from doing daily activities.
- General abdominal pain.
Many people who are assigned female at birth experience menstrual cramps—some more severely than others. These general tips should cover most mild menstrual cramps. They may even help if you have cramps so bad you need to take days off work! Let us know if these tips worked for you, or if you have any favorites that didn’t get into the article.