Women who start taking pain relievers when cramping begins may already be behind. Taking non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) as soon as bleeding starts can help prevent severe menstrual cramping. Many women experience consistent signs that signal the start of the period. Some of these include bloating, acne, food cravings, or low energy the week before bleeding begins. Pay attention to these signs and start taking medication prior to the start of the period.
2. Avoid inflammatory food and drink
While cravings during menstruation can make women reach for junk food, eating these foods will likely make period pain worse. Eating foods that are high in fat and sodium has been shown to make menstrual pain worse. Additionally, avoid consuming alcohol and excess caffeine during the period. Alternatively, reach for anti-inflammatory food and drink such as blueberries, raspberries, and ginger or mint tea.
3. Exercise regularly
Research has found that exercising regularly may help reduce period pain. Exercise produces endorphins that can help to counteract the chemicals that induce menstrual cramps. Experts have found that participating in some form of aerobic exercise at least 3 times per week can reduce painful periods. Aerobic activities include any movements that increase the heart rate. Some of these might include walking, running, biking, dancing, or swimming.
4. Try hormonal treatment
In cases of secondary dysmenorrhea, severe period pain is caused by certain conditions such as endometriosis or uterine fibroids. In these instances, hormonal treatment is the most effective remedy. Birth control methods that contain both estrogen and progestin, or progestin-only birth control, can be effective treatments for dysmenorrhea. Many women also find relief from painful periods after having an intrauterine device (IUD) inserted.
When to seek treatment
While menstrual cramps are common, dysmenorrhea should not interfere with daily life. If over-the-counter pain relievers and dietary or lifestyle changes do not relieve period pain, women should speak with a healthcare provider. An OB/GYN can make recommendations regarding treatment options for painful periods and dysmenorrhea.