by Stephanie Moore
A menstrual cramp is like a heart attack in the uterus. The pain is caused by the uterine muscles constricting in order to stop the loss of blood. This condition is called dysmenorrhea. Since many women get excruciating menstrual cramps before and during their monthly period, it is important to know. The pain can be a mild annoyance or it can be crippling, with back ache, nausea and even vomiting.
Pain medications can bring relief, of course. Which medication actually works depends on the individual. Some women only respond to ibuprofen. Others find that acetaminophen or aspirin works just fine. A doctor may even recommend beginning daily medication a few weeks before a patient’s period begins.
Such measures may not be necessary for mild cramps, in fact, simple alternatives may be just as effective as medicine, without any adverse side effects. Ibuprofen, for example, has been known to cause stomach damage over time.
A hot water bottle or heating pad is the best ‘homemade’ method for relieving menstrual cramps, headaches and backaches. Exercise also makes a great pain reliever. The trick is to get the blood flowing. A brisk walk or some yogic stretching will get your heart pumping. However, sit-ups, crunches and other abdominal exercises are bad for cramps.
Another way to deal with mild menstrual pain is to change what you drink. Caffeine makes pain worse, causing the uterus to constrict even more. Alcohol can also aggravate uterine contractions by depleting important nutrients in the body. A switch to decaffeinated coffee and some teetotaling might eliminate mild cramps altogether. They can also lessen with vitamin supplements, as doctors say calcium helps maintain normal muscle tone. Niacin, another important nutrient, is also effective but, only when taken seven to ten days before the flow starts.
Menstrual cramps can also be caused by constipation, so fiber is important. Valerian, a medicinal herb is also effective when taken in doses of 300-500mg per day. It also can help with insomnia. Other herbs that work for dysmenorrhea are: cramp bark, yarrow, black and blue cohosh and ginger.
Whatever method she chooses for dealing with premenstrual symptoms, a woman should always know her own body. In the end, this knowledge is the best defense against terrible period pain.