March is Endometriosis Awareness Month and we are spreading the word with a few helpful tips and tricks. For those that don’t know, endometriosis is a common disorder in which tissue that normally lines the inside of the uterus grows outside of the uterus, causing painful and irregular period symptoms. One of the most common symptoms is: excruciating menstrual cramps before, during and after your menstrual cycle.
Are cramps putting a cramp on your lifestyle? View a curated list of tried-and-true methods to reduce the pain and alleviate symptoms.
- Apply heat – Whether you’re using a heat patch or a heating pad, heat can help relax the uterus muscles. It’s shown that heat can relieve cramps and may be even more effective than taking an over-the-counter pain reliever.
- Use oils – We all love a massage, but who knew massaging essential oils onto your abdomen could reduce cramping pain? The best oils to use are lavender, sage, rose, marjoram, cinnamon and clove. These oils can also be combined with castor oil and rubbed directly onto your skin. If you have sensitive skin, talk with your dermatologist before pursuing this route.
- Take a pain reliever – Over-the-counter pain reducers are known to relieve many forms of pain, but nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are going to provide the best relief. These medicines reduce inflammation and the number of prostaglandins made inside your body. Recommended NSAIDs include ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), Naproxen (Aleve) and aspirin (Bufferin).
- Light exercise – In a recent study, scientists found that women who did 30 minutes of low-to-medium exercise at least three times a week had significantly reduced period cramping pain levels. This could look like ten minutes of yoga before bed or a brisk walk in the mornings. Something to get your body moving and heart rate up should do the trick.
- A warm bath – A luxurious soak in the tub with your essential oils and Epsom salt will surely provide some much-needed relief and relaxation. Get the most out of your soak by spending at least 15 minutes in the warm water, but don’t forget to drink water as the heat may dehydrate you.
- Take supplements – There are many over the counter vitamins that prove effective in treating period cramps. Magnesium, cinnamon, ginger, calcium, B1, B6, B12, E, D and fish oil are among the best at reducing cramping pain. Before trying out a new supplement, be sure to check with your doctor to discuss dosage levels and interactions with other medications.
- Enjoy a healthy snack – Did you know there are foods that reduce inflammation within your body? These snacks are always a healthy option but provide extra benefits when you’re experiencing pain. These foods include berries, fatty fish, avocado and extra virgin olive oil. Add a little dark chocolate to the mix to boost your happy hormone – serotonin.
- Avoid these snacks – When dealing with painful period cramps, it’s a good idea to limit foods that cause water retention, bloating and discomfort. Snacks high in sodium, fat and sugar are known to be problematic. Caffeine, alcohol and dairy are good to avoid as well.
- Consider birth control – When home remedies aren’t working it may be time to consider medication. One of the benefits of hormonal birth control is the treatment and regulating of irregular, painful periods. Many forms of birth control reduce the amount and severity of period cramps, including the pill, intrauterine device (IUDs), Depo-Provera shot, vaginal ring, patch and implant. Consult your primary care provider or OB/GYN for more information pertaining the use of birth control.
When Should I See a Provider?
While people dealing with menstruation commonly experience period cramps, severe pain is not normal, but can be treated. Extreme pain can be a sign of a more serious health issue such as endometriosis. Consult your OB/GYN if your period cramps interrupt your daily activities or dramatically increase in severity.
If you have more questions pertaining endometriosis and period cramps, check out our UofL Physicians – OB/GYN & Women’s Health services at 502-588-4400.