Created for Greatist by the experts at Healthline. Continue reading
If you shake your fist on your uterus every month and drop a few F-bombs while reaching for more Midol, we are with you. Periods can be a real pain – literally. But why do periods hurt in the first place?
As you know, your uterus makes it rain the Carrie way every month by putting down its food when you don’t get pregnant. This is the fun little process known as menstruation.
Shedding part of your uterus shouldn’t feel like walking in the park, but period pain can sometimes feel unbearable for a reason beyond PMS.
Allow us to introduce you to the main causes of period pain. We̵
Painful periods actually have a real name. In fact, it is a condition called dysmenorrhea.
According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, dysmenorrhea is the most common period problem. More than half of women who menstruate report pain for at least 1 to 2 days per month.
Pain periods can be divided into two categories:
- Primary dysmenorrhea: This type usually starts right after the first period. This is usually thanks to lipids (fat-like molecules in your bloodstream, cells, and tissues) called prostaglandins. Think of prostaglandins as lipids that act like hormones.
- Secondary dysmenorrhea: This type usually occurs later in life and usually comes from a reproductive disorder. It often worsens progressively.
While aches and pains are natural for periods, extreme or even debilitating pain that affects your life is not normal.
The whole PMS feels
When Aunt Flo is on her way or is already visiting there are a ton of side effects associated with pain and discomfort, many of which are perfectly normal. The most common PMS pain symptoms are:
- delicate ta-tas
- Diarrhea and constipation
- Bloating and gas
- a headache
- Back pain
- a lower tolerance for sound or light
Prostaglandins work like hormones by contracting your uterus and peeling off its lining, which you suspected causes cramps.
These guys are also involved in the pain responses and inflammation. They hang around in the lining of the uterus and are released when the lining is released.
After falling freely with the food, kick the contractions a few steps higher, usually in the first few days of your period.
Inconvenient mathematical equation: The higher content of prostaglandins = even more severe cramps.
When levels are very high, they can also cause diarrhea and nausea.
Other ways behind fatal convulsions are conditions like:
- Endometriosis: A condition in which tissue – like the tissue on the lining of the uterus – grows outside of the uterine wall.
- Fibroids: They are abnormal growths that can appear in or on your uterus.
- Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID): This is an infection of the female reproductive system.
- Cervical stenosis: This happens when the cervical canal or spinal nerve narrows.
- Ovarian cysts: These occur when sacs or pouches grow in or on your ovaries.
- IUD pain: This includes discomfort or cramping after an IUD is inserted or removed.
- Pregnancy: If cramps occur between 1 and 4 weeks after a missed period, it could be a sign that you are pregnant.
Estrogen and progesterone are hormones that mark the team that regulates menstrual cycles.
Unfortunately, they are also known to affect chemicals in the brain that have been linked to headaches. Just before your period starts, there are decreased levels of estrogen in your body which can trigger these bothersome headaches (Pooh).
A shift in hormone levels can also cause dreaded chest pain. What happens is, estrogen widens the breast ducts, while progesterone makes the mammary glands swell. This intense combination leads to chest pain. You may know the “heavy” feeling that tenderness can bring with it.
You don’t have to put up with pain when lying down (unless you think taking a nap will help!). Regardless of whether your pain is mild or unbearable, there are regular pain relievers to help you:
- Try a heating pad or weighted blanket for cramps.
- Dietary changes, such as limiting caffeine and alcohol, can help reduce pain typically.
- It can also be helpful to get your body moving through exercise or yoga.
- Over-the-counter (OTC) drugs like handy dandy ibuprofen or other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like naproxen (Aleve) can be very helpful.
- If your breasts are sore, a breast massage can also help.
- If your head is killing you, try applying a cold compress to your head, like a cold washcloth.
- Also drink a lot of H20.
If your pain is worse than the relief, over-the-counter medication or a heating pad can provide and It affects your life (i.e. missing school or leaving school early, missing work, etc.). It is a good idea to speak to your doctor.
You may have an underlying condition that is causing your period pain. Another treatment option may be available that can help.
If you decide to speak to your doctor about your period pain, it is helpful to bring a journal or diary of your symptoms with you to your appointment. Logging your symptoms can help your doctor understand your pain and confirm whether it is related to your periods so that they can find the best treatment.
Make a note of things like:
- Length / severity of the bleeding (i.e. how many pads / tampons are you using)
- Days per month of pain
- Severity of pain
- Pain related or not related to your periods
- Pain on days without bleeding
- Urinary or bowel symptoms (burning sensation with peeing, diarrhea, constipation, pain with bowel movements)
- Nausea, vomiting
- the place of your pain
- What makes your pain worse (i.e. intercourse? Movement?)
- What makes your pain better
Your doctor may do some tests to see if hormone therapy, birth control pills, or other medications can help with the hormonal changes that are causing your severe pain.
Period pains suck, but it is usually normal.
Hormones like estrogen and progesterone, as well as the lipid known as prostaglandins, play a big role in causing these nasty cramps and headaches.
Sometimes other conditions such as fibroids, PID, ovarian cysts, and endometriosis can be responsible for this pain.
If your period pain is so severe that home remedies and OTC treatments don’t work for you, make an appointment to speak with your doctor. Bring a log of your symptoms so your doctor can find the best treatment plan for you.