Menstrual Cramps

Remedies for Menstrual Cramps

Most women leading active lifestyles cannot afford to let menstrual cramps affect their daily routine and performance much. Therefore, it is quite common for them to relieve these cramps with the help of medications or home remedies. There are several over the counter Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs), like ibuprofen or naproxen, which relieve menstrual cramps, pain and discomfort. However, in order to avoid any side effects that are usually associated with medication, many women prefer using simple and natural home remedies for menstrual cramps.

Heat therapy is very effective for relieving cramps caused by the menstrual cycle. You can apply a heating pad or a hot water bag directly on to the lower part of your abdomen. This not only helps to get rid of the cramps but also alleviates the other uncomfortable symptoms. There are many women who prefer to soak in a hot bath instead, as it reduces the discomfort and enables them to feel more relaxed. This remedy is fairly safe if used correctly and can be quite effective. This treatment poses no risk and so can be turned to as frequently as needed without any worry about after effects.

It has been seen that many women tend to cut down on physical activity during the course of their menstrual cycle. However, studies indicate that being physically active can actually reduce the pain caused by menstrual cramps.

Acupuncture, which is a part of traditional Chinese medicine, has been used for alleviating many health problems. Menstrual problems, like cramps can also be relieved with the help of this practice. However, it is essential to visit a qualified and experienced acupuncturist for this purpose.

While the remedies for menstrual cramps mentioned above are quite safe, it is best to use them after consultation with a doctor. In case they do not bring about the desired results, you may need to consult your health care provider. If the cramps are a result of underlying disorders, you may even need to go through a treatment routine, therapy program, or in some cases surgery.


Menstrual cramps, also medically known as dysmenorrhea, can be described as a dull and throbbing pain, experienced by women, in the lower abdominal area. It is possible for a woman to have menstrual cramps during her period, or even just before she begins her cycle. Most girls and women who have reached puberty have experienced menstrual cramps at some time or the other, but their intensity may vary. For some, these cramps may be no more than a minor inconvenience or source of discomfort. However, in others these menstrual cramps can be severe enough to disrupt regular activities, like going to school or work, participating in sports, exercising, and so on. There are also many women who do not have these cramps at all. Although anyone can experience menstrual cramps, either as a one-off or on a monthly basis, it has been seen that some women are more prone to cramping, as compared to others. Some of the factors that increase the chances of suffering from menstrual cramps include:

  • Reaching puberty at an early age, - 11 or younger
  • Metrorrhagia, more commonly known as irregular menstrual bleeding
  • Genetic factors, like a family history of dysmenorrhea
  • Being below the age of 20 or never having been through childbirth
  • Menorrhagia or heavy bleeding during periods
  • Unhealthy habits like smoking, leading a sedentary lifestyle, consuming excess alcohol and taking illegal drugs

Even though menstrual cramps are very common, they should be checked by a doctor, particularly if they are a cause for severe pain and discomfort. This is because at times, these cramps could be caused by hormonal imbalances or health conditions that are severe. In such instances, the intensity of the cramps can be reduced considerably, by addressing the underlying cause. If the cramps are not caused by a severe health problem, simple home remedies can also be quite effective in dealing with them. In some women, these menstrual cramps may also reduce or completely disappear, after childbirth.

Symptoms of Menstrual Cramps

Many claim that menstrual cramps are a sign that the menstrual cycle is about to begin soon. However, there are several symptoms for menstrual cramps that can help you recognize the problem and accordingly seek help if necessary. Some of the most obvious signs of menstrual cramps include:

  • Dull throbbing pain in the abdominal area
  • Pangs or cramps in the lower abdominal region
  • Heaviness or a bloating sensation
  • Pain that begins in the abdomen and radiates to the lower back and thighs

In some cases, you may also experience these symptoms, in addition to menstrual cramps:

  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Excess perspiration
  • Loose stools
  • Increase in the frequency of urination
  • Dizziness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Mood swings
  • Uneasiness
  • Backache

Menstrual cramps and their symptoms are more evident in those girls and women who have started menstruating in the last few years. When this happens, it is rarely a cause for concern. However, if the cramps are so severe that they keep you from getting out of bed, then in all probability they could be an indication of a deeper underlying condition. Moreover, experiencing severe menstrual cramps on a one-off basis is not unusual, but if they become a regular occurrence that you go through every month, it is best for you to consult a doctor, to identify its cause.

Your health care provider may ask you all about your symptoms and will probably study your family history too. Therefore, before you go for your appointment, keep detailed notes about the description of your symptoms as well as the factors you think trigger them off.

Causes of Menstrual Cramps

When a woman is going through her menstrual cycle, the uterus contracts, so that the inner lining can be expelled. The prostaglandins, which are hormone-like substances, trigger off contractions in the uterine muscles, which also leads to pain. The higher the level of prostaglandin, the more severe the menstrual cramps are likely to be. Hormonal imbalance is one of the most common causes for menstrual cramps.

However, there could be other factors too, that lead to menstrual cramps. Given below are a few of the health conditions that have been known to cause severe menstrual pain and cramps:

  • Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID), which is a disease or rather an infection, affecting the female reproductive organs.
  • Non-cancerous growths on the walls of the uterus, commonly known as Uterine Fibroids.
  • Cervical Stenosis, where the opening of the cervix is quite small because of which, it impedes the flow of blood. This causes the pressure in the uterus to increase, along with the pain.
  • A condition known as Adenomyosis, in which the tissues lining the uterus start growing into the muscular uterine walls.
  • A very painful health condition called Endometriosis, where the tissues that are supposed to line the walls of the uterus get implanted in other parts of the body, mainly the fallopian tubes, pelvic tissues and the ovaries.

Try not to panic every time you experience those menstrual cramps, because they are not always indicative of a major health problem. However, it is best to get the problem checked so that the cause can be determined accurately, and treated if necessary.

Diet for Menstrual Cramps

Several studies have indicated that certain vitamins are very effective in reducing the severity of menstrual cramps. Following a healthy diet is very important at all times and not just during your menstrual cycle. However, healthy foods can help restore your energy levels and reduce lethargy, tiredness, weakness and fatigue. Given below are some of the foods that should be included in a diet for menstrual cramps:

  • Fish: Many varieties of fish are high in Omega-3 fatty acids and therefore contain anti-inflammatory properties, which are great for minimizing pain all over the body. Hence, eat a higher quantity of fresh fish before your menstrual cycle and during it. This will reduce cramp pain and will enable you to stay active, even during your period.
  • Fruits and Vegetables: The deficiency of a particular vitamin or a mineral can sometimes lead to severe cramping during a menstrual cycle. To avoid this, you could consume a higher quantity of fresh fruits and vegetables, as they are high in vitamins, minerals and other essential nutrients. There is a wide variety of fresh vegetables you can eat, but green leafy veggies like kale, cabbage and spinach are more important than the others. Eating the skin of the fruit is also an excellent way to avoid menstrual problems.
  • Whole Grains: It is important to eat a lot of foods that have been made from whole grains during the menstrual cycle. However, stay away from food items that contain the word “enriched”, as they are not very useful. This word indicates that the products are not made from actual whole grains. Instead, opt for foods made from 100% whole grains or whole wheat.
  • Flax Seed: The production of prostaglandin in the body is one of the main factors causing menstrual cramps in women. Flax seed is great for reducing prostaglandin, which minimizes the intensity of menstrual cramps. Women are usually advised to consume between one and two tablespoons of flax seed during the menstrual cycle. You can sprinkle ground flax seed over your salad, morning cereal, a cup of yogurt or in a smoothie.
  • Basil: Drinking Basil Tea during the menstrual cycle has proved to be very effective in reducing menstrual pain and cramps. For best results, you need to drink one cup of basil tea every hour. You can also choose to sprinkle a small bit of cinnamon powder over your tea, so that its taste improves and has a better, more positive impact on your body. Many women find it difficult to consume basil tea, because of its taste. In that case you could add fresh basil leaves to your food.
  • Ginger: This is one of the most commonly used home remedies for reducing menstrual cramps and pain. The best part about ginger is that it can be used in several ways to deal with the excruciating pain. Most women prefer to drink ginger tea with some honey or lemon juice added to it. Drinking this tea at regular intervals throughout the day not only reduces the pain, but also helps get rid of other uncomfortable menstrual symptoms. You could increase the amount of ginger you use in your food, while cooking. Yet another way of having this remedy is by sucking on some candied ginger.
  • Nuts: Several types of nuts are high in magnesium, Vitamin E, calcium and other nutrients, which helps reduce menstrual cramps considerably.
  • Vitamin Supplements: Add a supplement containing Vitamin E, calcium, zinc, magnesium or thiamine to your diet, in order to reduce menstrual cramps and bloating.

Suggestion for Menstrual Cramps

Even though menstrual cramps have no major complications on their own, they could interfere with your day-to-day activities. Just remember that you don’t need to suffer in silence. There are millions of women across the world, who share your plight and you should try to relax. Let those around you know that you could do with some support, both at work and at home. Stress can severely aggravate the symptoms, so try and share some of your responsibilities, and allow yourself some relaxation. 
Menstrual Cramps Treatments - more information
Menstrual Cramps - Frequently asked questions