Menstruation may be a fact of (female) life, but does it always have to be such a b*tch? We’re bombarded with memes and messages about how periods are painful inconveniences to be endured, complete with headaches, hot water bottles, and crazy hyperactive hormones.
But the truth is, while it’s normal for periods to be uncomfortable, they shouldn’t cause you any actual pain. We’ve been conditioned to believe that it’s normal, when in fact pain could be indicative of problems that go much deeper than a too-small tampon, and shouldn’t be taken for granted.
Here’s your baseline: Any discomfort or minor pain in your lower belly or back should easily be remedied by an over-the-counter pain reliever, or you should feel some relief with a little rest and a warm compress over your stomach.
If pain can’t be resolved by medication, and it’s seriously cramping your style (pun intended) causing you to miss school or work or limiting your regular activities, you might need to consult your doctor about dysmenorrhoea.
Dysmenorrhoeais the clinical term for painful or problematic periods. It’s often subcategorized into primary or secondary dysmenorrhoea. Primary Dysmenorrhoea refers to the cramping you commonly experience right before you get your period, and persists throughout the duration of your flow.
This cramping is due to the contractions of your uterine lining, which thins, sheds, and ultimately becomes your monthly period. It’s normal for these cramps to be accompanied by nausea, haziness, and even diarrhoea–blame it on the hormones released by your uterus.
Secondary Dysmenorrhoeais the type of menstrual pain that signifies a more complicated condition affecting your reproductive system. Endometriosis and PCOS are just two of the common problems women face that could lead to extremely painful periods–the type of pain where you can hardly get up from bed and pain medication doesn’t even make a dent in it. You’ll need to see a doctor for a proper diagnosis, so here’s what you can do leading up to your appointment:
- Track your period pain and other symptoms for at least two cycles.Keep a journal and make notes about when the cramping begins, how bad they get, and what seems to help them (or make them worse). This will be valuable information for your doctor.
- Try to supplement with heat.Submerging yourself in a warm bath, applying hot packs to your sore back and aching lower belly, bundling up under an electric blanket can help relieve pain.
- Consider mild exercise.It can feel icky, so try only as far as you can tolerate, but exercising can help relieve you of pain. Try a simple yoga sequence and see how you feel.