Cramping and overall pelvic discomfort is common among women just before, and often during, menstruation. The severity of pain can range from mild to severe. Most of the time, menstrual cramp relief is achieved following application of a heating pad on the lower abdomen. Over-the-counter pain relievers may also ease symptoms. Sometimes, doctors prescribe birth control pills because hormone therapy has the potential to make monthly menstrual cramps less severe. Additionally, a low-salt, low-fat diet and a routine of daily exercise may prove helpful.
A heating pad usually offers the most relief for menstrual pain. Many times, lower back discomfort accompanies cramps, so alternating placement of heat between this area of the back and the lower abdomen may be a good option. There is a risk of burning the skin if the heating pad is too hot, or with its prolonged use, so proper care should be taken to avoid injury.
For women who find electric heating pads cumbersome, disposable single-use heat patches may be beneficial. Generally worn under clothing, heat patches provide an excellent alternative to heating pads for cramp relief. Some patches last for up to eight hours at a time. These are especially helpful for women on the go. Some are designed specifically for the lower back, while others are shaped for placement on the lower abdomen.
Over-the-counter pain medication, such as ibuprofen and naproxen sodium, can also provide cramp relief. Sometimes, these ingredients are combined with other medications to help control symptoms commonly associated with menstruation, such as irritability and bloating. When pain reoccurs monthly and inhibits normal activity, doctors may prescribe birth control pills to ease discomfort. In severe cases, or when certain medical conditions exacerbate menstrual symptoms, prescription pain medication may be recommended by a physician to aid in cramp relief.
Endometriosis, pelvic inflammatory disease and other conditions may cause severe cramping, especially during menstruation. Depending on the condition, a gynecologist may recommend hormone therapy, laparoscopic surgery, or other medical treatments. Sometimes, procedures are performed to treat the disease. Other times, they are done to discover its source. Once the cause of severe pain is determined, appropriate treatment may commence.
Aside from medication, heat therapy, and physician intervention, cramp relief is often achieved after small changes to diet and exercise are made. Lowering salt intake and limiting fatty foods can help. In addition, complex vitamins rich in zinc, calcium, and B vitamins may ease the severity of menstrual cramping. Engaging in an exercise routine, such as brisk walking, swimming, or other enjoyable activity, can potentially reduce severe discomfort. The feel-good endorphins released after exercise can also improve a woman’s mood during menstruation, in addition to offering cramp relief.