When It’s More Than PMS

Painful periods or dysmenorrhea is something that almost every woman has experienced before. These painful periods are classified as either primary or secondary dysmenorrhea. Primary dysmenorrhea is more common and is not associated with any disease. On the other hand, secondary dysmenorrhea is caused by a uterine or pelvic medical condition. Experiencing discomfort and cramps before and during periods is normal. However, if the default is debilitating pain, a long-term treatment strategy is necessary. These 4 steps can help keep painful periods at bay.

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1. Identify the type of dysmenorrhea

Identifying and treating the correct type of dysmenorrhea is the start to reducing pain. Consistent discomfort which does not increase over time is primary dysmenorrhea. However, if the pain interferes with daily activities and increases every month, secondary dysmenorrhea may be. An underlying condition such as pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), uterine fibroids, infection, tumors, or polyps could cause secondary pain. An OB/GYN can perform tests to determine the root cause of the pain. From there, the doctor can formulate a treatment plan.

2. Diet can help with period pain

Women with primary dysmenorrhea produce excess uterine prostaglandins hormones. When the body constantly produces this hormone, inflammation increases. One way to reduce this effect is through diet. Red meat and dairy products increase prostaglandins production, so try to avoid these foods at least before and during menstruation. Increase fruits and vegetables, and drink more water to minimize bloating and cramps. Food rich in manganese, a trace mineral, reduces cramps, so eat plenty of seeds and grains.

3. Keep active, then rest up

Exercise is known to release endorphins, the feel-good hormone. During menstruation, the body needs endorphins even more. Exercises like walking, running, swimming, and even yoga can help decrease mental and physical discomfort. Yoga can also help reduce menstrual cramps and pain. Exercise can be done at least 3 times a week, for 30 minutes. Getting sufficient rest also plays a significant part in managing cortisol. Overproduction of this hormone disturbs your ovulation and even causes even more painful irregular periods.

4. Medication and supplements can help

Since the leading cause of discomfort and pain is increased inflammatory response, anti-inflammatory drugs can help. Medication such as ibuprofen can be taken 2-3 times per day at the start of the pain. Women can also use birth control pills to reduce the inflammatory response, but only under the guidance of an OB/GYN. Herbs such as ginger, fennel, raspberry leaf, and chamomile help with cramps and inflammation for a more natural remedy. For secondary dysmenorrhea, pain medication may not be enough. Surgical intervention or antibiotics can treat the underlying issue first.

Get your pain under control

Painful periods affect most women, but there are ways to manage the discomfort. Changes in diet, exercise, medication and herbal remedies should help most cases. However, if the pain increases monthly and includes excessive bleeding, see a doctor immediately. These symptoms may mean an underlying pelvic issue. Further treatment like surgery can stop painful periods and more severe medical conditions. Take steps to get painful periods under control.

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