Menstrual cramps (dysmenorrhea) are throbbing or cramping pains in the lower abdomen. Many women have menstrual cramps just before and during their menstrual periods. Menstrual cramps are pains in the abdomen and pelvic areas that can be experienced by a woman as a result of her menstrual period. Menstrual cramps are not the same as the discomfort felt during premenstrual syndrome (PMS), although the symptoms of both disorders can sometimes be experienced as a continuous process. Many women suffer from both PMS and menstrual cramps.
Having your periods can be one of the most physically and emotionally exhausting times of the month. With all the pain, discomfort and cramping, all you really want to do is lie down, relax and let the pain just vanished. While there are a number of painkillers you can have to help get rid of the pain, it might not always be the best thing to do for your body. If you don’t want to rely on painkillers to help get rid of the pain, here are some natural remedies that can work wonders.
Menstrual disorders/Menstrual Cramps
There is a wide spectrum of differences in how women experience menstruation. There are several ways that someone’s menstrual cycle can differ from the norm, any of which should be discussed with a doctor to identify the underlying cause
|Short or extremely light periods||Hypomenorrhea|
|Too-frequent periods (defined as more frequently than every 21 days)||Polymenorrhea|
|Extremely heavy or long periods (one guideline is soaking a sanitary napkin or tampon every hour or so, or menstruating for longer than 7 days)||Hypermenorrhea|
|Extremely painful periods||Dysmenorrhea|
|Breakthrough bleeding (also called spotting) between periods; normal in many females||Metrorrhagia|
There is a movement among gynecologists to discard the terms noted above, which although they are widely used, do not have precise definitions. Many now argue to describe menstruation in simple terminology, including:
- Cycle regularity (irregular, regular, or absent)
- Frequency of menstruation (frequent, normal, or infrequent)
- Duration of menstrual flow (prolonged, normal, or shortened)
- Volume of menstrual flow (heavy, normal, or light)
Dysfunctional uterine bleeding is a hormonally caused bleeding abnormality. Dysfunctional uterine bleeding typically occurs in premenopausal women who do not ovulate normally (i.e. are anovulatory). All these bleeding abnormalities need medical attention; they may indicate hormone imbalances, uterine fibroids, or other problems. As pregnant women may bleed, a pregnancy test forms part of the evaluation of abnormal bleeding.
Women who had undergone female genital mutilation (particularly type III- infibulation) a practice common in parts of Africa, may experience menstrual problems, such as slow and painful menstruation, that is caused by the near-complete sealing off of the vagina.
Premature or delayed menarche should be investigated if menarche begins before 9 years if menarche has not begun by age 15, if there is no breast development by age 13, or if there is no period by 3 years after the onset of breast development.
What can cause PMS symptoms and menstrual cramps?
- Excessive estrogen – This is a necessary hormone for our reproductive health. However excessive estrogen can cause unpleasant and painful periods. Excessive estrogen can be due to stress in the body. Correcting dietary habits can also keep this hormone in balance.
- Thyroid hormones – Thyroid hormone is required for many functions in the body including deactivating excessive estrogen hormone and speed up the metabolism.
- Stress – Stress releases cortisol hormone in the body, produced by our adrenal glands. Higher production of this hormone due to stress can lower the levels of progesterone and thyroid hormones. Both progesterone and thyroid hormones are required to balance estrogen in our bodies.
The above hormonal imbalances can be easily caused by improper dietary habits, emotional stress, chemicals in our foods, chemicals in our body care products, tap water, carrying excessive weight in the body and an inactive lifestyle.
Symptoms of Menstrual Cramps
- Absent Menstruation – If you have two or more menstrual cycles exempted (and you are pretty sure that you are not pregnant), can be a reason for a few, not really good things. The reasons can be hormonal misbalance, thyroid problems, excessive workouts or diet, stress or premature menopause. Absent menstruation can lead to higher growth of abnormal cells (potential condition before cancer). Except for the usual treatment, your gynecologist should do a blood test and check your hormone level, your thyroid and he can check do you have polycystic ovaries.
- Sudden and intensive cramps – If you have cramps that cause you unbearable pain, you may suffer from endometriosis. Endometriosis is a condition in which the cells that grow inside of the uterus are starting to grow even from the external wall of the uterus and they cause bad and abnormal pain. The symptoms can show up any time, and most of the women who are diagnosed with this type of problem, usually had painful menstruation from the time when they were way younger.
If you notice abnormal bleeding between your cycles, that can be completely normal, especially if you are taking birth control pills, but still you should go and see a doctor. It can also mean that you might have ovarian cyst, fibroids or pre-cancer cells.
- Excessive bleeding or cycle that lasts more than 10 days – What is actually excessive bleeding? If you change your insole every hour, that can be called excessive bleeding. This can be a symptom of some medical problems, like fibroids, polyps or adenomyosis (where the endometric tissue grows inside the muscle walls of the uterus) that can cause anemia. This kind of condition requires urgent medical intervention. This can be a sign of myoma or hyperplasia.
- Unbearable symptoms of PMS – If you are turning yourself into some kind of monster, you probably suffer from the premenstrual dysphoric disorder, which is incomparably worse than the classic premenstrual syndrome. These symptoms include uncontrolled cravings for food, changes in your mood, depression, great anxiety, rage and losing your own control. These symptoms can be very unpleasant, but with taking antidepressants for 2 weeks or 1 month, it can make a huge difference.
- Distressed” hormones – Some things during your menstruation can get much worse. If you suffer from asthma, and you feel very bad a week before your cycle, you should know that’s not a coincidence. There is a phenomenon known as premenstrual magnification, where conditions like diabetes, depression or arthritis get much worse during the menstruation. You should consult your doctor about the medications you should be drinking before the cycle, and it will help you feel much better.
Exercise may be the last thing on your mind during your time of the month—but it could be the ticket to feeling like yourself again. Besides providing an extra dose of mood-boosting endorphins, exercising during your period is shown to help relieve abdominal cramps, bloating, headaches, and lower back pain.
Lie on the floor and place your feet a little wider than hip-width apart. Slowly lift your hips off the floor and up, then gently lower down one vertebra at time. Lift and lower slowly for one to two minutes. Why it works: “Getting the blood to circulate to the lower back muscles, while also gently strengthening them, is a great way to relieve lower back pain,” says Becker.
When it’s that time of the month, Katie Dunlop, founder of Love Sweat Fitness, uses this as her go-to move. Lie on your back with your forearms at your side. Raise your feet off the floor to 90 degrees and lower right leg to tap toes on the floor, return to starting position and repeat with left leg. Continue to alternate sides. Engage your core. Why it works: It works the lower abdominal muscles and relieves cramps.
Sit in a kneeling position with knees hip-width apart and your bottom on your heels. Lift your hips a couple of inches off your heels and gently roll your hips forward and back. Make sure to contract your abs as you roll your hips forward and let out a strong exhale. Try to tuck your hips forward and back 30 times at a moderate pace. Feeling up for a challenge? Becker suggests lifting your arms above your head to increase difficulty. Why it works: “This exercise simultaneously strengthens your abs, while also working your thigh muscles,
Place your forearms on a sturdy piece of furniture (like the back of your sofa) or kitchen counter and walk your feet far enough forward so that your body makes and “L” shape. Extend your right leg out straight while keeping your left leg slightly bent. Begin to lift and lower your right leg up and down (floor to hip height) while engaging your abs. Make sure not to arch your back. Try to lift and lower for 60 seconds on each leg. You can also try doing this exercise on the floor: Lie on your back with your left leg bent and your right leg lifted straight out in front of you. Raise your hips and keep the left leg bent and right leg lifted.
Lie on your back and lift your legs straight up above your hips. While engaging your abs, lift your head, neck, and shoulders off the floor. Gently lower one leg towards the floor, then start to slowly scissor your legs. You can hold on to each leg as it comes towards your chest for extra stretch and support. Try to scissor legs up and down for 30 seconds.
According to a study in the 2016 International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, women in Taiwan who participated in a short-term yoga exercise intervention reported, “fewer physical premenstrual symptoms associated with a lower risk of menstrual pain.” Plus, the practice is best known for boosting energy, decreasing anxiety, and improving overall mood.
Reclined bound angle
With a bolster or tightly-rolled blanket flush with the sacrum (the triangular bone in your lower back), running parallel with the spine, slowly begin to lie back. You’ll feel a gentle stretch in the lower back. Inhale, and let your knees drop open and the bottoms of the feet come together to form a diamond shape and open the groin. Support the knees if necessary with blocks or couch pillows at the outer thigh/knee. With palms facing up, slide the arms out away from the body to a comfortable position.
Seated leg forward bend
Starting in a seated position with your legs stretched out in front of you. (If your legs feel tight, tight place yoga blocks under your knees or sit on a blanket or cushion.) On an exhale, hinge from the hips and slowly fold forward. Keep your sitting bones grounded and spine long as the body lowers towards the legs. With the shoulders relaxed, outstretch your arms towards your feet or shins to keep length in the lower back (use a strap if your arms can’t reach your legs comfortably).
Starting in a seated position on the floor with the legs extended out in front of you, draw the right leg up so that your right foot is near your left knee on the floor, then drop the knee open (if the hips are tight and the knee floats, prop the bent leg or sit on a cushion). Sitting tall, flex the extended leg, keeping your bottom touching the floor.
Home Remedies for Menstrual Cramps
Hot Water Compress
- Put a towel drenched in hot water over your lower abdomen to get relief from menstrual pain.
- Alternatively, you can use a bottle filled with hot water and place it on your lower abdomen to soothe cramps and pain.
- Consume food rich in bioflavanoids like citrus fruits, mangoes, sprouts, brussels, broccoli, etc.
- Consume foodstuff rich in iron and calcium like milk, egg, legumes, green leafy vegetables, beans, lentils, chickpeas and soybeans, dried fruits like raisins and prunes, etc.
Curd and Bananna
- Cook banana leaves in oil for a while, and mix them with curd. It makes a great recipe for cramps.
- Add ginger to cakes, cookies, vegetables and tea. To prepare ginger tea, steep ½ tbsp of crushed ginger in a cup of boiling water and strain it. Sip this tea 2-3 times a day. You can also add cinnamon powder, lemon juice and honey to the tea. This is one of the best natural remedies for menstrual cramps.
Steep some mustard seeds in water; or alternatively, add mustard powder in warm water. Dip your feet in it for 30-45 minutes. This is a great way to cure menstrual cramps.
- Chew some raw fennel seeds daily or as and when required. They also act as a mouth freshener, aids in digestion and eliminate the symptoms of menstrual cramps.
- Another option is to steep some fennel seeds in water. Strain this mixture and add some honey to it. Drink this herbal tea when your periods are about to start.
- Consume 1 tbsp of flaxseeds daily throughout the menstrual cycle. Alternatively, mix 1 tbsp of flaxseeds along with yogurt or salad and eat it. This is one of the most effective natural cures for cramps.
Papaya / Banana
- Have papaya shake or banana shake daily. This will help regulate and ease the flow of blood during periods.
- Steep some coriander seeds in 1 cup of boiling water, and strain this mixture when it reduces to half. Add some honey or sugar if required and drink it to get relief from menstrual cramps.
- Boil 1-2 tbsp of sesame seeds in water and strain this mixture. Let it cool down. Drink it throughout the day during periods.
Roast some carom seeds and have them with milk when you experience intolerable pain.
- Alternatively, ingest carom seeds with boiled water.
- If oil of carom seeds is available, then apply it on thighs and legs to get relief from menstrual cramps.
- Mix almond oil, lavender oil, cypress oil and peppermint oil; and apply onto the abdominal area to get instant relief from pain.
- Drink carrot juice during your menstruation days. You can also eat raw carrot. This facilitates the regulation of blood flow during periods.
- Drink a glass of milk everyday as it is important to take sufficient quantities of calcium in your daily diet, to stop the reoccurrence of cramps.
- Add one to two tbsp of blackstrap molasses to a cup of warm milk and drink it when menstrual cramps begin. Being rich in iron, calcium, magnesium, potassium, manganese, selenium and vitamin B6, it helps soothe the muscles of uterine walls and lessens blood clots.
- Mix some asafetida powder in honey and butter; and consume it.
- Or else, add asafetida while cooking food, to get rid of cramps.
Herbal Remedies for Menstrual Cramps
- Include aloe vera juice in your diet along with honey to get rid of menstrual cramps.
- Chasteberry is used to cure several gynecological problems including premenstrual syndrome, menopause, and menstrual cramps. Take 1-2 teaspoons of dried berries, and boil them in 1 cup of water. Steep for 10-15 minutes. Drink this decoction twice or thrice a day.
- Drink parsley juice regularly to reduce the problem of irregular periods and cramps.
- Alternatively, put cucumber, carrot, beetroot and parsley in a blender and blend them to extract the juice. This must be taken regularly during menses to regulate and ease the blood flow.
- Chew some leaves of basil every day. Or else, steep some leaves in water and strain the mixture. Mix some honey if required. This is very effective tea for menstrual cramps.
Raspberry Leaf or Green Tea
- Drink some jasmine-flavored green tea or tea prepared from raspberry leaves to relax the abdominal muscles.
Mint / Wintergreen
- Steep some peppermint or wintergreen leaves in water for 10-15 minutes and strain this mixture. Let it cool and then sip it throughout the day.
- Alternatively, you can even try chewing gum and candies containing peppermint.
Indian Lilac (Azadirachta Indica) Leaves
- Crush 8-10 leaves of Indian lilac and form a paste. Take it along with warm water or a cup of buttermilk. It is a very effective herbal remedy for treating cramps.
- Steep some cinnamon sticks in water for 5-10 minutes. Strain this mixture. Allow it to cool; and add honey. Drink this tea throughout your periods or just before its onset.
- Alternatively, you can sprinkle some cinnamon powder on your spring rolls, apple pie, etc.
- Drink juice of lemongrass to treat cramps resulted due to periods.
- Steep some thyme leaves in water for 5 minutes. Strain this mixture and then drink it after every half hour. This is very effective remedy for menstrual cramps.
- Alternatively, crush some thyme leaves and extract the juice. Mix this juice in one cup of water and sip it once daily.
Spikenard (Nardostachys jatamansi)
- The juice or oil extracted from spikenard acts as a muscle relaxant and helps treat menstrual pain effectively.
Cramp Bark and Black Haw
- Make use of juice or extract of this herb. It acts as an excellent treatment for severe menstrual cramps.
- Extract some juice from the root of this herb and drink it. The medicinal properties of black cohosh naturally cure the symptoms associated with menstrual cramps.
- The juice or soup of this herb increases the blood circulation in the body and relieves muscle spasm.
- It is very effective in reducing cramps, uterine muscle spasm, stress, heart palpitations and nervousness related to pelvic pain. This herb helps in the same way as dong Quai and relaxes muscle pain/spasm in the abdomen.
- The root of wild yam must be used as an herbal remedy for menstrual discomfort and menopausal symptoms. Its antispasmodic properties help reduce the pain during periods.
- Drink chamomile tea to ease the pain. Add two tbsp of dried chamomile flowers to water and boil. This solution must be taken 1 week before you are expecting your periods, as it relieves pelvic muscles; thus, reduces menstrual cramps.
- The extract of roots, leaves, and bark of this herb must be taken to get relief from pain and induce sleep.
White Willow Bark
- Its bark is tattered and boiled to prepare the oil, tea, or squashed into pills. For effective results, consume it on a regular basis for a week or more before your periods begin. The salicin content in white willow bark resists pain very effectually.
Evening Primrose / Borage Oil
- Massage your pelvic and lower abdominal region with this oil to get relief from menstrual cramps.
Homeopathy remedies for menstrual cramps
- Throbbing pains, violent pains, worse on the right side. Sudden onset. Bright red, clotted, hot, profuse bleeding. Congested/full feeling in the uterus. Bearing down sensation. Irritable with maddening pains. Better lying down, propped up; thirst for cold water or no thirst at all, desire for lemons or lemonade, worse motion, worse from being jarred, worse light and noise.
- The metals will be the guiding symptoms here. The person may be hypersensitive and intolerant to the pain–very irritable, easily angered and inconsolable. Intense pains extending down inner thighs. The blood may be black with large clots with the gushing of bright red blood. The person desires cold drinks, is worse lying down, better cold applications.
- This one looks a lot like Mag-phos. (see below). There’s a bit more emphasis on the amelioration from hard pressure with this one. There may be an exaggerated “bending double” postition; with Mag-phos, the heat is more important than the hard pressure, though Colocynth likes heat as well. Thirsty. Irritable, indignant. Anger aggravates.
- Painful swelling of the breasts before the period. Flow is in gushes. Pains may alternate from side to side.
- PMS-irritable, jealous, depressed, headache, flushes of heat all ameliorated with the onset of the flow. Severe cramps, worse from the pressure of the clothing, ameliorated with the onset of the flow. Flow may be black, scanty, lumpy; the less the flow, the more the pain. Better from open-air, cold drinks, talking, worse from sleep, heat, hot drinks.
- This is the main one; if you’re not sure what to do, give Mag-Phos. This is the typical picture of a woman with her period, doubled up with a hot water bottle or heating pad pressed firmly against her stomach. The flow is dark. She wants to be nurtured; better hot baths, better pressure, worse lying on the right side. Thirst for cold drinks.
- Pain in the lower back with constant urging to stool. The patient may be chilly and very irritable, impatient and angry. Better rest, lying down, worse pressure–even pressure of clothing. The desire for fats and spicy foods.
- The menses are easily suppressed, for instance, by getting the feet wet or by bathing. Menses are irregular and the flow is irregular–changeable. The metals will be a tip-off here. The Pulsatilla person is weepy, changeable, shy, dependent, wants nurturing, love, attention; she is thirstless; she craves creamy things–whipped cream, ice cream; she is warm, worse in warm rooms, better in the open air, walking slowly in cool crisp weather.
- Severe cramps extend from low back to pubis; also, the pain extends from the uterus to thighs. Blood is bright red or bright red mixed with dark clots. Shooting pain up the vagina. Better lying flat on the back with limbs extended.
- Continuous discharge of watery black blood until the next period.
- Weak uterus, bearing down sensation as if all the organs would fall out, must cross her legs; menses late, scanty, irregular or early and profuse. Violent stitches upward in the vagina. Low sex drive. The patient may be angry, tired, chilly, irritable and over-worked. She may desire sour foods like pickles, but also may desire chocolate. She may be much improved by exercise, worse from cold, better warmth.
- Heavy periods, severe cramps often associated with diarrhea and vomiting. Chilliness with cold sweat, especially on the forehead, and weakness/exhaustion, feel faint; my desire ice water.
The don’ts: During or a week before the cycle
- Don’t consume white sugar, processed white flours, and artificial colors and additives through your foods.
- Don’t choose a low-fat diet. Yes, you heard be right. You need the right (unprocessed and extra virgin) fats to absorb the fat-soluble vitamins in your bodies such as vitamins A, D, E and K. Such as coconut oil, ghee, flaxseed oil, evening primrose oil, and hemp seeds.
- Reduce eating too much soy or grain-based foods. These foods can increase blood sugar imbalances, lower thyroid functions and reduce the liver’s ability to detox excess estrogen. Grain-based foods are rice, pasta, and bread.
- Eliminate commercial dairy and dairy-based products from your diet completely. You can choose to consume organic unhomogenized milk or raw milk (grass-fed and good husbandry practice) from a well-known farmer.
- Eliminate table salt or refined salt intake. Replace it with Celtic sea salt or Himalayan Pink salt.
- You must consider eliminating caffeine from your diet to get rid of painful menstruation.
- Do not use sanitary pads that are not disposable. Organic disposable pads contain no harmful chemicals.
The do’s: 12 natural ways to reduce menstrual cramps or period pain
- Drink lemon water every morning after you wake up. This will have an alkalizing effect on the body and keep the body hydrated and mineralized. Stay hydrated throughout the day,
- Must include vitamin D3 in your diet. Especially if you live in a colder climate where sunlight is reduced during the winter season.
- Increase consumption of leafy greens to ensure enough B vitamins, fiber and mineral supply in the body. You will get a lot of calcium, magnesium, iron, B vitamins and other minerals through leafy greens. Swiss chard, collard greens, yogurt, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, spinach contains these minerals.
- Eat fatty fish, fish or flax oil every day to get relief from hormonal imbalances.
- My most favorite remedy to get relief from cramps is an Ayurvedic home remedy using cinnamon and ginger to make a tea. Just use ¼ tsp. of ground cinnamon and a pinch of ground ginger or a couple of thin slices of half an inch of fresh ginger to a cup of hot water. Wait and let it steep for 5 minutes. Strain and drink the tea. I will also write a recipe for pain-free period tea concoction.
- Vitex or chaste berry is a herb that eases menstrual cramps,
- Evening primrose oil or borage oil is rich in anti-inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids and is known to reduce breast pain and tenderness as well as PMS symptoms.
- Dietary intake of calcium and magnesium is crucial for balancing the hormones.
- Using heating pads or hot water bags around the area relaxes the stiff muscles and reduces pain by bringing oxygen in the area.
- One of the most important things to address is relaxation through 7-8 hours of sound sleep and stress reduction. Meditation and breathing exercises (pranayama) also assists in reducing stress.
- If you eat a lot of nuts, seeds and grains then increase aerobic exercises. Aerobic exercises releases endorphin hormones or “feel good” hormones in the body. The presence of this hormone works like a natural pain killer.
- Apply natural progesterone cream or wild yam cream. Apply this cream on stomach, lower abdominal area, buttocks, things, breasts and upper arm area. Best time to apply this cream is a week before the start of your period.
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