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Day one of your period and your lower back hurts like a mother. Knowing that more than half of all women experience pain during their periods is probably not enough to make them feel better. So what can you do to get relief as soon as possible?
Here’s why it happens – and what you can do to stop it.
Period-related pain, technically called dysmenorrhea, doesn’t just cause the typical abdominal cramps.
It can also make your back and even your thighs ache, or cause headaches, nausea, diarrhea, and fatigue. (FUN.) You can thank prostaglandins for that ̵
As soon as you start bleeding, the prostaglandins (along with the rest of what has accumulated in the lining of your uterus) will start shedding. That’s why your back may feel the worst when your period comes, and hopefully within a day or two, feel less uncomfortable.
Back pain can affect anyone, but it can be more intense if your menstrual period tends to be heavier or if you are under 30 years old. (Good to know: It often eases after the birth of a child.) Conditions such as endometriosis, fibroids, or adenomyosis can also make dysmenorrhea worse.
You shouldn’t have to worry about back pain for a day or two every month. And luckily, you don’t have to. There are many ways to relieve pain, and home remedies and medications can both make a difference.
Exercise can actually help clear these pain-causing prostaglandins from your system faster. Additionally, it helps increase the production of feel-good endorphins and reduces stress, which can go a long way in helping you feel better overall.
Research has shown that you should aim for at least 30 minutes of aerobics three times a week, but it definitely won’t hurt. Do you want to go the extra mile? Add a few lower back tonics to your routine.
Or get a massage
It has been shown to relieve period pain in women with endometriosis, but it’s definitely worth trying even if you’re endo-free. Because … what have you got to lose?
Hang out with heat
Heat increases blood flow to relieve pain and reduce muscle stiffness. And it’s a proven pain reliever. Try applying a heating pad for 15 to 20 minutes, or better yet, soaking it in a long, hot bath.
If it helps you relax and unwind, your back will likely feel a little better. Breathing exercises, yoga, and mindfulness meditation have been shown to improve pain (or at least the perception of pain, which is what really matters here). So make your choice.
Cancel cocktail hour
Alcohol tends to make menstrual pain worse. So avoid doing it until your back returns to its normal self. Fancy one of these alcohol-free options?
Take a pain reliever
If lifestyle isn’t changing or you need quick relief, simple over-the-counter (OTC) NSAIDs can help.
These pain relievers (which include ibuprofen and naproxen) are anti-inflammatory drugs that block prostaglandins so you will definitely feel more comfortable.
However, it’s not really worth trying before taking them. In fact, you will get the best results if you dose at the first sign of pain.
Note: If you’ve had (or currently have) stomach ulcers in the past, stay away from NSAIDS.
Look at birth control
Any method that contains hormones such as estrogen and progestin (or just progestin alone) can be used to treat menstrual pain. These include the pill, patch, IUDs, vaginal rings, contraceptive plants, and injections.
Mild back pain in the first 1 to 2 days of your period isn’t exactly fun, but it’s also not a big deal in terms of health. However, you should definitely speak to your doctor if you are dealing with severe pain or cramping that lasts for more than 2 or 3 days, or if the pain you are having is severe enough to keep you from your normal activities to hold.
It’s also worth seeing your doctor if the bleeding just seems heavy, especially since back pain tends to get worse with increased blood flow. Your periods can be unusually heavy if:
- You suck through one or more pads or tampons every hour for several hours in a row, or you have to wear two pads at the same time.
- You need to change your tampon or pad in the middle of the night.
- Your period is longer than 7 days.
- They pass clots that are more than a quarter larger.
- You are super tired, low on energy, or short of breath.
Some back pain can go without saying at the beginning of your period. But it should be * manageable *, either with home methods or with medication.
If the pain is very bad or affects your life, be sure to talk to your doctor about it. Together you can devise a strategy to make your periods less painful.