The menstrual cycle, or period, is when the uterus sheds its lining. This process repeats every month, except during pregnancy, and continues until menopause. Period cramps can cause pain and discomfort in women prior to or during the menstrual period.
The painful sensation is also referred to as dysmenorrhea, which ranges from mild to severe. Over-the-counter medication and alternatives like home remedies can offer period cramps relief. The menstrual cramps usually start before the menstrual cycle.
Women suffering from period cramps can also experience pain in the lower abdomen and back. Normally, the pain starts one to two days prior to menstruation and may last two to four days. The pain associated only with the process of menstruation is primary dysmenorrhea. On the other hand, if the cramps appear due to a medical condition, like pelvic inflammatory disease, endometriosis, or uterine fibroids, it refers to secondary dysmenorrhea.
A major symptom of period cramps is a throbbing and dull cramping pain along the lower abdomen. Other symptoms associated with menstruation cramps include:
- Nausea and vomiting.
- Pain in the thighs.
- Loose stools or diarrhea.
- Dizziness or faintness.
What Are the Causes of Period Cramps?
After 28 days of its release, the unfertilized egg starts to disintegrate. The body starts the process of expelling out the egg, which involves the release of blood along with the egg and the lining of the uterus. The uterus contracts as a way of getting rid of all the blood, lining, and remaining parts of the egg.
At this stage, the prostaglandins (a hormone-like substance) trigger the whole process. These are the chemicals that appear within the linings of the uterus. The production and release of this chemical start prior to the menstruation cycle.
The prostaglandins cause muscle contractions or cramps, which can be identical to labor pains. Cramps can also contribute to nausea and diarrhea. The uterus expels its lining during periods and contractions help release all the blood and uterus linings.
As such, prostaglandins are the basic reason behind the pain and inflammation within the lower abdomen and back. The contractions also involve blood flow within the lining of the endometrium, or uterus. The blood periodically is expelled out of the vagina during periods.
Furthermore, increased levels of prostaglandins may also result in diarrhea and nausea. When the uterus completely sheds its lining, the level of prostaglandins automatically drops within the body.
As a result, you start to feel menstrual cramp relief after one or two days of the period. Another cause of menstrual cramps is the high levels of leukotrienes, which can commonly develop during menstruation cycles.
Dysmenorrhea treatment involves the use of pain relief medication, massage, omega-3 diets, supplements, and other alternative remedies. Certain home remedies for menstrual cramps are as effective over-the-counter medication.
Other Causes of Period Cramps
Apart from the increased level of prostaglandins, there are other causes of period cramps. Therefore, in order to ensure period pain relief, it is essential to identify its true cause. Below are the situations where a person may be at a higher risk of having excessively painful period cramps.
- Early age puberty (before 11 years of age).
- Smoking or drinking.
- Inheriting painful periods.
- Under the age of 20.
- Periods with heavy bleeding
- Irregular periods
- Never gave birth to a child or suffering from infertility
Conditions Worsening the Menstrual Cramps
Usually, period cramps don’t involve any type of medical complications, even though they may disturb your day-to-day life by limiting social activities. However, a certain medical condition associated with the menstrual cycle may cause complications. For instance, endometriosis may cause infertility issues.
Pelvic inflammatory disease may create scars in the fallopian tubes. This usually increases the risk of implanting the fertilized egg outside the uterus. Therefore, it is essential to report any irregular condition to the doctor and seek period pain relief.
Apart from this, there are numerous medical conditions that worsen the impact of period cramps. A few include:
- Uterine fibroids — It relates to the noncancerous growth of the tumors alongside the uterus wall.
- Endometriosis — It’s a tissue that appears on the outside of a uterus.
- Adenomyosis — This condition involves the growth of a tissue into the muscular walls of a uterus.
- Cervical stenosis — During this condition, the cervix opening becomes small, which limits the flow of menstrual residue.
- Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID ) — It’s an infection caused by the bacterium.