It is widely accepted by many adolescent girls and women that period pain is a normal part of the menstrual cycle. For some it is mild pain that is easily relieved with a hot water bottle and some rest. Others may require strong painkillers and may be unable to function as normal until the pain subsides. Whatever the case, period pain should not be considered the norm. It is medically referred to as dysmenorrhea. When the cause is known for milder cases it is usually not serious. However, very severe pain that is unbearable is often linked to an underlying medical condition.
Types of Menstrual Pain
The term menstrual pain does not necessarily refer to period pain only. Mid-cycle pain often coincides with ovulation and not menstruation. It is also known as mittelschmerz or simply ovulation pain. On the other hand, period pain usually starts with the periods or even a day or two earlier. Period pain subsides a towards the end of the menstruation or a short while after the bleeding stops. Both types of pain are at times described as abdominal cramps but the pain can also be sharp or tearing in nature with more severe cases.
However, there are instances where the pain is not related to either ovulation or menstruation. The pain could be coincidentally related to the periods. Alternatively the underlying condition also responds to the hormone changes associated with the menstrual cycle. The latter is seen with conditions like endometriosis where uterine tissue grows outside of the uterus. It reacts to the hormonal fluctuations in the menstrual cycle and causes extreme pain. Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) and uterine fibroids are two other conditions that need to be considered.
Remedies for Unbearable Pain
It is important to understand that period pain should always be assessed by a medical professional. Often the pain is muscular in origin and is therefore due to cramps. However, this may not always be the case. Severe pain will require further investigations to identify the underlying cause so that the appropriate treatment can be prescribed. Simple remedies that can be carried out for period pain includes:
- Lie down in a comfortable position. Many women find that the pain slightly eases with lying on their side and curling up.
- Use a hot water bottle or heat pad over the abdomen if it helps ease the pain. Stop heat therapy immediately if the pain worsens or the bleeding becomes heavier.
- Use over-the-counter (OTC) painkillers or anti-inflammatory drugs. Prescription painkillers should be the last resort and reserved only for severe abdominal pain.
- Some supplements like magnesium, calcium and vitamin B-complex may be useful in preventing or minimizing period pain.
Often these measures are not as effective for unbearable period pain. The exact location of the pain needs to be isolated because it is at times possible that the pain is unrelated to the female reproductive organs. By delaying seeking medical treatment for the underlying cause of unbearable period pain can lead to complications, sometimes even in later life.