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Cramps before period are always obsessive for women who experience it in their period. It becomes the most annoying thing for women and has a negative effect on their quality of life. In fact, about 70% of women have cramp before period and a few others experience cramps during and right after that time of the month. However, not all women suffer from it.
What are cramps before period?
Painful menstruation is the most popular complaint among females, especially young adults. Period pain usually appears at lower belly or back zone. Depend on each individual, the pain change from mild to severe condition.
Cramps before period are divided into 2 types:
- Primary abdomen cramps: The pain usually starts one day before the period and lasts no more than 12 hours. This symptom is common in girls who first get period and lasts 2- 3 years or more.
- Secondary abdomen cramps: The pain starts several days before menstruation or may also occur during or after finishing the period. This often occurs in women of reproductive age
Each individual may experience different feeling about cramp before period. If you suffer from menstrual cramps, you may have:
- Sharp or dull pain in the abdomen around the umbilical area or at hypogastric region
- Pain may radiate to the back
- Feeling of pressure on your belly, lower back or thighs
- Nausea, vomiting
- Headache or dizziness
What are the causes of cramps before period?
There are a lot of reasons which can lead to period cramps.
In case of primary abdomen pain, the cause may be due to severe contractions of smooth muscles of uterus to push the bleeding out. These extreme contractions press against the blood vessel feeding the uterus, cause the lack of oxygen and starve portion which that vessel feeds. Thus, it becomes pain and inflammation. Prostaglandins hormone which related to pain and inflammation is responsible for this contraction. The changes in this hormone concentration vary the condition of menstrual cramps. The more prostaglandins are secreted, the worse your abdominal pain .
The cause of secondary abdomen pain is mainly due to women suffering from some gynecological diseases such as endometriosis, pelvic inflammatory disease, uterine fibroids, adenomyosis and cervical stenosis.
Some ways to reduce cramps before period.
1. Hot compress
To reduce pain in your abdomen or lower back, applying heat such as heat patch, heating path or hot water bottle on that areas. This is an excellent way to ease the pain experienced by many women. Warm water will help the uterus contract more smoothly and improve the blood flow to the uterus, so the menstrual blood is pushed out more easily and women will feel comfortable. According to a study in 2012, heat patch containing iron chip had a similar analgesic effect to ibuprofen for pain control in primary abdomen cramps .
2. Massaging with essential oils
Massage therapies by applying gentle pressure on abdomen skin and pressing specific points work well to ease menstrual pain. The light massage will help the abdominal muscles to not contract suddenly which will effectively alleviate the pain of menstrual cramp. Therefore, women should massage gently and often at the lower abdomen during menstruation.
We can add some certain aromatic essential oils such as lavender, clary sage, rose, and marjoram to raise benefit of massage. A study in 2012 in Taiwan showed that the women group massaged with essential oils reported less pain and reduce the duration of pain in the period compared to the other group massaged with synthetic fragrance .
Ginger root is considered as a traditional medicine. Its component contains anti-inflammatory substances and inhibits the process of prostaglandins synthesis so it can help ease the abdomen pain. It was recommended that about 750- 2000 mg ginger had a positive effect to control pain during the first 3 to 4 day of menstrual cycle.
We can use the ginger root alone by crushing it or cutting it into pieces and then rub them on the abdomen in 5 to 7 minutes. In addition, we also use it combined with other good natural ingredients to enhance the effectiveness of pain relief like vitamin B6, B3, valerian and so on.
4. Avoid contact with cold during period
Keep body warm before, during and after menstruation. You should not swim, bath with cold water, drink cold water or work where the air conditioning is too cold because this stimulates the uterus to contract and cause severe pain.
5. Chamomile tea
Chamomile tea contains some substances that help to calm muscle spasm, so it is perfect to reduce contractions of the uterus and alleviate cramping pain.
How to use:
- Put a chamomile tea bag into a cup and pour hot water into it
- Cover that cup and wait for 5- 10 minutes to dilute tea
- Add some honey to increase flavor if you like
- To get effectiveness, drink this tea all week before your period begins
6. Maintain a healthy diet
Maintain a healthy diet and regular exercises help to prevent abdomen cramps in each period. A good diet for easing the pain includes food that is rich in protein, fiber, and vegetables, such as multivitamin in papaya, vitamin B6 in brown rice, vitamin E in olive oil and broccoli, omega- 3 in flaxseed and so on.
Supplementing minerals is also important to reduce the pain. You can find them in some foods or fruits like avocado, chickpeas, bananas, and prunes.
Drinking plenty of water is essential to prevent dehydration which can cause bloating and make the pain worse. You should keep drinking 1.5 to 2 liters water, equivalent to 6 to 8 glasses of water each day.
Women should drink more milk, eat more yogurt to reduce the risk of dysmenorrhea. Current studies show that women who take 1200mg of calcium per day are about 30% less likely to experience dysmenorrhea than those who only take 500mg of calcium per day.
7. Keep hygiene
This is a necessary thing, especially during menstruation because if women do not pay attention to clean genital area, bacteria or other harmful agents easily to enter and cause inflammatory diseases. Besides, to effectively reduce dysmenorrhea, women should abstain from sex these days.
8. Reduce stress
The best way to relieve dysmenorrhea you need to try is to keep your mind at rest, to keep your mood in harmony, limited by the pressures from the environment, work, and family.
Yoga intervention is also an effective way to help women combat the pain of menstrual cramps. Some specific positions are recommended. You can kneel, bend your knee and sit on your heels, then lower your bodies until your foreheads touch the ground; maintaining this movement until you feel the most comfortable.
A traditional method like acupuncture can help lessen the menstrual pain. It was done by inserting the thin needles into some specific points on the body.
If none of above methods is effective, you should see the primary physician or specialized doctors to be prescribed pain relief drugs.
Some drugs you may be recommended to use by doctors:
- Over the counter drugs: Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications, including ibuprofen, aspirin… are used the most common to ease stomach cramps. Always keep 1 to 2 tablets beside you at work or school in case you need it. However, this NSAIDs group have some side effects and the most prominent thing is to cause a gastrointestinal ulcer and bleeding. Thus you should ask your doctor to get right prescription and in case you have some gastrointestinal problems. If you can’t take NSAIDs, acetaminophen is a good choice to take to reduce the pain.
- Birth control pills: If your abdomen pain is not controlled by the above methods, the doctor can check your hormone level and prescribe birth control pills. These tablets inhibit the ovulation and alleviate the period pain. Remember that you should tell your doctor the comprehensive picture about your medical history, from that your doctor can give the best treatment for you.
- Surgery: If the abdomen pain is caused by the pathological diseases like endometriosis, pelvic inflammatory disease, uterine fibroids…, surgery is essential to fix the problem and ease the pain.
In conclusion, most of the camps before period are normal and are resolved or reduced by above several methods. However, in some cases, the pain can be an abnormal manifestation of pathology, women should see their doctor to determine their exact problems.