Women have, at some point or the other, had to face uterine cramps as well as excruciating pain around the time of their period, typically in the abdomen, back or thighs. Most people first notice menstrual cramps about six months to a year after getting their first period. At first, it may come and go, but later, it turns into a monthly occurrence. And this pain, experts say, isn’t one to be ignored.
“For the first few years, periods is generally painless, as cycles are anovulatory. As the pituitary-ovarian axis matures and cycles become ovulatory, it’s common to have mild dysmenorrhea just before and during periods, which comes as discomfort around the lower abdomen, lower back and thighs,” explains Dr Nisha Kapoor, director and HOD, obstetrics gynaecology and advanced gynae laparoscopy, QRG Super Speciality Hospital, Faridabad.
“Due to social taboos the pain during menses affecting daily routine is accepted as a normal aspect of the menstrual cycle and therefore is tolerated, women do not report it and do not seek medical care,” feels Dr Rahul Manchanda, Senior Consultant, Endoscopic Gyneacology, PSRI Hospital, New Delhi.
Dr Anjali Kumar, founder and senior consultant, obstetrics and gynaecology, Maitri Woman’s Health, says pain can be of two types: “One is primary dysmenorrhoea, which is caused due to chemical substances called prostaglandins, which are released from the uterus. This usually subsides within a couple of days during periods and does not require any special medical treatment, except some home remedies or mild painkillers. However, secondary dysmenorrhoea is usually caused due to certain diseases of the genital tract such as pelvic infections, adenomyosis, endometriosis and uterine fibroids.”
Finding out what’s causing painful menstrual cycles isn’t always easy. Some women are simply more prone to unpleasant moments than others. “A family history of painful periods, smoking, having excessive bleeding during periods, irregular periods, never having had a baby and hitting puberty before the age of 11, are all risk factors. Endometriosis, fibroids in the uterus, pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), Adenomyosis, and cervical stenosis are all medical conditions that can cause painful menstrual cycles,” shares Dr Manisha Ranjan, senior consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist at Motherhood Hospital, Noida.
Physical activity can boost energy levels and reduce the intensity of period pain. Walking at an average pace helps to loosen pelvic muscles and alleviate pain associated with menstrual cramps. Also, planks strengthen the back and help to reduce the discomfort during periods.
Dr Loveleena Nadir, senior consultant, obstetrics and gynaecology, Rosewalk Hospital, suggests these yoga asanas to relieve pain.
Baddha Konasana or butterfly pose is considered therapeutic during periods as it increases blood circulation and stimulates the functioning of the ovaries.
Chandra Namaskar (moon salutation) strengthens the abdominal as well as pelvic muscles.
Vajrasana or diamond pose helps in the relaxation of the waist and hip region and offers relief from menstrual cramps.
Supta Baddha Konasana or reclined Goddess pose relieves pain associated with periods and can reduce stress, anxiety and depression.
Yoga aside, any form of exercise is greatly beneficial, when it comes to easing pain. Dr Jayshree Sundar, director, gynaecology and obstetrics, Madhukar Rainbow Hospital, says: “Exercising during periods can lower the pain and menstrual cramps by improving blood condition. It hastens the process of shedding of the endometrial lining, so people with colour spotting might experience a free flow of blood. After a workout, endorphins are released and improves blood circulation, enabling muscles to release more energy.”
Banana, lemon, orange and watermelon are beneficial in reducing pain, as are walnuts, almonds and pumpkin seeds, which are rich in manganese.
Lukewarm lemon water, chamomile tea, fennel seeds water can help ease pain.
During the pre-menstrual period, cut down on salt, caffeine, chocolate and very high sugar. Instead, have more fruits, vegetables and drink a lot of water.
Avoid smoking, alcohol, colas and aerated beverages during this period.
Occasionally, painkillers are given, or hormonal therapy, to reduce this pain. ”As some patients have premenstrual syndrome, the pain starts to occur one to seven days before the period. If they exercise, consume healthy food or supplements, this pain can be relieved. Tablets of some vitamin supplements such as vitamin D6, B1, E and C can also help relieve the pain,” says Dr Seema Sharma, senior consultant, obstetrics and gynaecology, Paras Hospitals, Gurugram.
(With inputs from Arooshi Aggarwal, nutritionist and Dr Archana Dhawan Bajaj, gynaecologist and obstetrician, IVF expert, Nurture IVF Centre)
Some traditional Indian home remedies like applying heat, sprinkle of cinnamon, turmeric on food, or ginger in tea have remained popular natural alternatives for pain relief. Lately, chamomile tea has become very popular among women during periods, suggests Sujata Pawar, co-founder and CEO – Avni
To reduce painful menstrual cycle, bloated abdomen, hips, thighs, and other premenstrual symptoms, this natural ayurvedic recipe should be followed by Dr. Smita Naram, Co-Founder, Ayushakti
Items – Quantity
Cumin Seeds 1 spoon; Ajwain ¼ spoon; Black mineral salt ¼ spoon; Asafetida 1 pinch; Water ½ glass; Fennel seeds ½ spoon
Mix all the ingredients and drink it twice a day.
To get relief from backache before and during menstruation, follow this recipe and method:
Item – Quantity
Dry Ginger Powder 1/4 Cup; Fenugreek Seed Powder 2 Tbsp; Ghee 2 Tbsp; Jaggery 1/3 Cup
Mix all ingredients well, make balls of half an inch diameter and take this every morning on an empty stomach. Specially one week before menstruation, consume it twice a day.
Dr Manchanda suggests that if the pain is affecting your quality of life, not relieved with home remedies or NSAIDS and associated with heavy menstrual flow or irregular periods then it’s always advisable to see your doctor for better management.