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Menstrual cramps

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Menstrual cramps as the name suggests is the cramping you experience during and before your periods usually in your lower abdomen. For some the pain is mild and quite bearable while for others it could be debilitating and extremely painful.

The medical terminology for menstrual cramps is dysmenorrhea.


Symptoms associated with menstrual cramps

Usually girls experience too much cramping for one or two years after their first periods and it diminishes as they grow up. The pain might start before periods and last through those days or you might experience cramping only during periods.

The typical symptoms are: 

  • Pain in lower abdomen, it could be sporadic or constant
  • Pain in back and legs 
Along with cramping in stomach, there could be nausea, vomiting, dizziness and general feeling of being tired all the time. The flow of periods would vary from mild to heavy depending on the underlying complication.


Causes of menstrual cramps

The uterus contracts to discharge its lining from the vagina in the form of blood. This process is assisted by a hormone known as prostaglandin. If a woman has higher level of prostaglandins then she will experience great deal of pain as this hormone contributes to cramping and inflammation in uterine lining.

Menstrual cramps might or might not be governed by medical reasons. Underlying health complications that trigger menstrual cramps are: 

  • Endometriosis
  • Pelvic inflammation
  • Cervical stenosis
  • Adenomyosis
  • Uterine fibroids

However, the aforementioned reasons do not contribute to cramping always. It could also occur due to excessive physical exertion during periods, stress and anxiety.

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Diagnosis of menstrual cramps

Your gynaecologist will evaluate your general health and lifestyle. You need to present your medical history and the medicines that you are taking. 

Your doctor will perform a pelvic test manually to check your cervix.

Depending on the initial evaluation you will have to undergo some more diagnostic tests which include x rays, ultrasonography and MRI of your reproductive organs. This will give a clear picture of your underlying health issue that is contributing to your menstrual cramps.


Treatment of menstrual cramps

The first line of treatment is certainly – managing the pain. Your doctor would give you some OTC pain killers which would reduce the cramping and discomfort immediately. Prescription NSAIDs may also be given to manage pain.

Another treatment option includes – hormonal therapy. Your doctor would recommend pills or patches or birth control pills to deliver the hormone into your body in order to normalize uterine contractions.

If there’s a serious underlying complication like fibroids then your doctor might consider performing a surgery or some other techniques to cure the problem.


Managing menstrual cramps at home

You need rest to overcome the cramping. You can take a day off from your office or school and avoid any kind of physically exerting activities.

Use a hot water bag on your stomach and abdomen. You can also use a bottle filled with warm water and roll it over your belly. Take bath in warm water too. This helps a lot to ease the cramping.

Drink warm beverages like soups, green tea, ginger tea, etc. Avoid caffeine and alcohol as they increase cramping.

Written by: healthplus24.com team
Date last updated: August 06, 2014