Cramps, Cramps, Go Away!
Menstrual cramps (i.e. dysmenorrhoea) are symptoms experienced by most women one to two days before or during menstrual periods. The pain may be dull and throbbing in the lower abdomen, and may radiate to the lower back and thighs for about 3 days.
Some women may also experience sweating, loose stool, constipation, nausea and vomiting, dizziness or fatigue.
Causes of menstrual cramps
As your body tends to expel the lining in the uterus during menstruation, a substance called prostaglandin is being released in great amounts. It triggers the uterine muscle contractions, thus causing pain.
Menstrual cramps can also be caused by underlying conditions such as endometriosis, where cells from the lining of the uterus appear and flourish outside the uterine cavity, anxiety or stress.
Managing menstrual cramps
The two common ways to manage menstrual cramps are the use of painkillers or self-caring.
Painkillers such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are used to prevent menstrual cramps as well as to relieve the symptoms. They should be taken as scheduled for the first two to three days of menstrual flow as the release of prostaglandins are believed to be maximal during this period.
The common NSAIDs that are available as pharmacy-only items include ibuprofen and naproxen sodium. NSAIDs must be taken after meals to prevent any gastric discomfort.
Do the following the next time menstrual cramps haunt you.
- Use a hot water bag on the lower abdomen to ease the cramping
- Do light circular massage with your fingertips around your lower belly area
- Take warm baths
- Drink warm water
- Quit smoking if you are a smoker
When to consult a doctor
You should see a doctor if:
- You have irregular menstrual cycle
- The cramps only started after the age of 20
- The pain occurs at times other than during menses
- You are previously diagnosed with underlying diseases such as endometriosis
- You are on anticoagulant medications
- You are experiencing pelvic pain and are sexually active
- Medications do not provide any form of relief