Period pain can be heavier than usual
The follicular phase of the menstrual cycle is from the start of the menstruation to a few days afterwards (usually day 1–13) when the estrogen level is low.
Studies have shown that women are more susceptible and sensitive to pain during the first half of the follicular phase (day 1–6).
To avoid extreme period pain, it is recommended that you postpone dental visits, hair removal, skin peeling or facials, and other painful procedures for 5–7 days after the end of menstruation.
Pain tolerance reaches its minimum toward the middle of the cycle, and you will be able to resume your health and beauty regimen.
Lower abdomen pain during periods
Painful periods can occur even when the reproductive system is completely healthy. In this case, this is called primary dysmenorrhea.
There are several typical period pain causes:
- First, during menstruation, the uterus contracts to expel its inner lining (the endometrium). As a result, the blood vessels are compressed, which causes a temporary lack of oxygen and provokes the discomfort.
- Second, throughout the menstrual cycle, uterine tissues accumulate prostaglandins, hormone-like substances that intensify uterine contractions. The higher the level of prostaglandins, the more severe the pain. Prostaglandins accumulate in other smooth muscle tissues, for example, in those of the bronchi or intestines, which is why painful periods are often accompanied by nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
- Menstrual pain can also be a manifestation of secondary dysmenorrhea. In this case, it is often associated with pelvic disorders (endometriosis, inflammation of the uterus, and uterine appendages), and it is recommended that you undergo an examination.
Why can you feel period pain in places besides your abdomen?
Referred pain is pain that occurs away from its actual source. During your period, you can feel discomfort not only in the lower abdomen, but also in the lower back, sacrum, or hip area.
Such a broad area of pain is associated with the nervous system structure as nerve plexuses are located very close to each other in the pelvic area.
In most cases, period pain is the result of uterine contractions. Pain impulses are transmitted via the nerve network from the uterus to the uterine plexus and then to the spinal nerves, which causes discomfort in the lower back, sacrum, or hips.
Moreover, uterine tissues accumulate prostaglandins, hormone-like substances that intensify uterine contractions. The higher the level of prostaglandins, the more severe the pain.
Period back pain can be more intense if the uterus is tipped backwards relative to other pelvic organs.
How to stop period pain
The first few days of your period are likely to be the most painful. This is because the uterus is contracting in order to shed the inner lining and produce the menstrual period.
Exercise, sex, and eating your favorite food stimulate the production of hormones that ease the pain and lift your mood.
But if you really feel terrible, don't force yourself to do a physical activity. Just try to listen to what your body is telling you.
Period pain relief
Prior to menstruation, uterine tissues synthesize prostaglandins, hormone-like substances involved in regulating uterine contractions when the uterus is expelling its inner lining (the endometrium).
If the prostaglandin levels go up, the uterus contracts more actively, and the pain preceding and accompanying your period gets more intense.
You can reduce the discomfort by controlling prostaglandin production with the help of a diet.
For period cramps relief, try to replenish your diet with foods containing:
- omega-3 fatty acids (fish oil, flaxseed, seafood, walnuts)
- lycopene (tomatoes, pink grapefruits, apricots, guava)
- bromelain (pineapple)
- Ginger extract, and vitamins B, E, and C, as well as magnesium, will help in menstrual pain relief as they affect uterine smooth muscle contractions.
The balance of prostaglandins is disrupted by smoking, caffeine, and alcohol, so try to limit your exposure to those.
You should also avoid stress and chaotic eating as this has a negative effect on your overall well-being.
Ginger for period pain: does it help?
A study found that ginger was as effective as ibuprofen for relieving menstrual cramps — reducing the intensity and duration of pain.
If you have painful periods, try this recipe for ginger tea: steep 2 tablespoons of fresh ginger root in water for 15 minutes, then strain it and enjoy with honey or lemon.
How to stop heavy periods, or at least reduce the pain and blood loss
Prostaglandins are biologically active substances that induce pain. In the uterine tissue, they cause severe uterine contractions and agonizing pain.
The discomfort may also be due to the uterus being tipped forwards or backwards relative to other organs.
Heavy menstrual bleeding is often associated with an imbalance of sex hormones, thyroid gland malfunction, or blood coagulation disorders.
To relieve the pain and reduce the blood loss, apply an ice pack to the lower abdomen (for no more than 15 minutes).
To prevent anemia, it is recommended that you include foods and medical products containing iron, and vitamins E, C, and B9 (folic acid) in your diet.
If heavy and/or painful periods have become a regular occurrence, please consult your doctor. It is likely that non-steroidal anti-inflammatory and hemostatic agents, or combined oral contraceptives will be prescribed.