8 Ways to Manage Period Cramps

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Your period might be the culprit in a few seriously uncomfortable symptoms each month—and for more than half of all menstruating women, painful cramps are one of them.

Fortunately, according to Mon Health OBGYN, Dr. Kerri Hall, women suffering from period cramps have many available options to manage symptoms and cope with pain.

“Menstrual cramps are common, but that doesn’t mean you have to suffer through them,” says Dr. Hall. “Many women are able to find relief and comfort using a number of different techniques, so they can quickly get back to doing the things they enjoy without the debilitating pain.”

What causes period cramps?

Period cramps are uncomfortable, but they do happen for a reason, says Dr. Hall.

“During your period, your uterus contracts—or squeezes—in order to shed its inner lining as blood through the vagina,” said Dr. Hall. “As a result, it’s very common for women to experience discomfort and mild pain in the lower abdomen and back during menstruation each month.”

8 ways to relieve period cramps

Looking for ways to relieve painful menstrual cramps? Dr. Hall suggests trying these methods to manage symptoms:

  1. Modify your diet. It’s tempting to snack on junk food during your period, but Dr. Hall says sticking with low-inflammation foods may help to alleviate period cramps. A low-inflammatory diet should be rich in fruits and vegetables, lean proteins and healthy fats like salmon, avocado and nuts. She adds that dark chocolate is a great option to crush sugar cravings while maintaining a diet that reduces inflammation in the body.
  2. Stay hydrated. Make sure to drink plenty of fluids, and cut down on caffeine, alcohol, sugary beverages and salt. Staying hydrated may help to reduce water retention and alleviate period cramps. Aim for no less than 6 to 8 cups of water per day, Dr. Hall says.
  3. Try a supplement. Talk to your doctor about supplements that may be right for you. Some women find menstrual cramp relief when supplementing with magnesium, vitamin B1 or fish oil, she says. Always clear supplements with your doctor beforehand, who will be able to recommend safe options based on your medical history.
  4. Dr. Hall says some patients find pain relief in massaging the lower abdomen and back with safe essential oils or moisturizing creams. You can enlist the help of a partner or friend, or try it yourself.
  5. Try an over-the-counter pain reliever. If natural remedies aren’t working, over-the-counter pain relief may help to reduce pain and inflammation, says Dr. Hall. Tylenol, Motrin, Advil or Aleve are popular options. Always check with your doctor before taking any nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) medications like aspirin or ibuprofen-based options.
  6. Use a heating pad or take a hot bath. Applying heat to the source of pain has been shown to provide drastic pain relief in many women, says Dr. Hall. Place a heating pad or hot water bottle on the lower abdomen when you’re experiencing cramps. A warm soak in the tub may work just as well.
  7. You may feel tired and sluggish, but Dr. Hall says getting active can provide huge relief for period pain. A run or even a brisk walk helps to release feel-good endorphins that boost mood and relieve pain.
  8. Talk to your doctor about hormonal birth control options. If at-home remedies aren’t cutting it, talk to your doctor about birth control or medications that may help to provide relief from menstrual cramps. Your doctor may be able to check hormone levels and suggest a birth control option to help manage your uncomfortable period symptoms.

When you should see a doctor

If you are experiencing heavy periods, spotting or other unusual symptoms such as vomiting or severe, debilitating pain, call your doctor. Mild pain is common, says Dr. Hall, but any abnormal symptoms can indicate a more serious, underlying health issue.

Schedule an appointment with Dr. Hall.