Dysmenorrhea refers to the painful cramps that a woman experiences before or during the menstrual period. It comes in two types: primary and secondary dysmenorrhea.
- The primary type, also known as common menstrual cramps, starts one to two years after a woman gets her period. It is usually felt in the lower part of the abdomen up to the back area. It can range from mild to severe but typically lasts for only one to three days. The pain becomes less severe as the woman grows old or after she gives birth to a baby.
- The secondary type, on the other hand, refers to cramps that are caused by a reproductive system disorder. It lasts longer than the primary type.
The most obvious symptom is the painful sensation and pressure in the abdomen particularly in the lower area. There is also reverberating pain in the lower back, inner thighs, and hips. Severe cases would also include symptoms like upset stomach, vomiting and loose stools.
The cause of primary cramps is the contractions in the uterus. The uterus is a pear-shaped organ where the baby grows during pregnancy. It contracts during the menstrual cycle of the woman. The pain happens when the uterus contracts too strongly, as this pushes against the nearby blood vessels. The pressure on the blood vessels may cut off oxygen supply to the uterus muscle tissues. The temporary loss of oxygen supply results in pain in the abdominal area.
Secondary dysmenorrhea, meanwhile, can be caused by reproductive system disorders like
- pelvic inflammatory disease
- stenosis (narrowing of the cervix)
Although you can't cure menstrual cramps, there are certain things that you can do to find relief.
- If the pain is unbearable, take pain reliever like aspirin, Tylenol (acetaminophen), Motrin (ibuprofen) or Aleve (naproxen). Don't wait for the pain to set in. Take these medications when the bleeding starts.
- You may also place a heating pad or a hot water bottle on the areas where you would feel the cramps like in the abdomen or lower back.
- Taking a warm bath would also help.
- Make sure too that you are fully rested. The condition worsens if you're tired or stressed.
- If you find it hard to relax, try some relaxation techniques.
- Massage is always a smart idea especially if you massage your lower back and abdomen. This can provide you with great relief.
- It's also imperative to avoid foods and drinks that contain caffeine like soda and coffee.
- Avoid smoking and drinking alcohol as well.
- Since it has been found that women who exercise regularly have less menstrual pain, it would be best to make exercise a part of your routine. Even if you're not a gym buff, you can exercise at home by doing yoga or Pilates. You can also take up a sport or have an enjoyable walk around the neighborhood.
- For secondary cramps, it's necessary to consult your doctor right away to have the medical condition treated appropriately.