We’ve all had cramps, but some women have them worse than others. According to Marla Ahlgrimm, science is not 100% sure what causes excruciating pain in some women. However, there are several things that we can all do to ease discomfort.
Is Cramping Caused By Hormones?
Marla Ahlgrimm explains that the most likely cause of most menstrual cramps is in excess of certain hormones released from the endometrium (the uterine lining). Some cramping may be caused by secondary conditions, such as endometriosis or polycystic ovary syndrome.
Most of us already know that we can take ibuprofen or other painkillers/anti-inflammatories to reduce discomfort. Unfortunately, Marla Ahlgrimm says these don’t work for everyone, but there are many different ways that women can find relief. These include:
Use a heating pad. Heating pads can do more than just keep you warm on a cold winter night. Marla Ahlgrimm explains that continuous heat, when applied topically, is an effective all-natural way to relieve menstrual cramps and muscle cramps alike. You can pick up a water bottle at any pharmacy or invest in an electric heating pad.
TENS. Transcutaneous nerve stimulation (TENS) is a pain relief method that delivers a low-voltage shock to the skin. It’s theorized that sending a current through the body tells the brain to produce endorphins that naturally block pain. TENS units are readily available at most pharmacies or online.
Change your diet. Diet alone may not be able to stop period pain, but Marla Ahlgrimm says it can help. Some studies suggest that women who eat 3 to 4 servings of dairy report fewer instances of menstrual pain. This is likely due to an increased calcium intake. Further women who eat foods rich in magnesium report fewer menstrual cramps along with lower levels of stress and anxiety. Foods with high levels of magnesium include soybeans, almonds, and leafy vegetables.
Relieve stress. If you feel chronically stressed out, you’re more likely to have menstrual cramps than your mellow friends. Marla Ahlgrimm suggests that stress during the first part of the menstrual cycle can lead to more painful periods.
Stop smoking. Smoking constricts blood flow, which may contribute to cramping. For better overall health and more comfortable periods, Marla Ahlgrimm recommends putting the cigarettes down and steering clear of nicotine altogether. Alcohol may also worsen menstrual cramps, so it’s best to avoid drinking in the days before you start your period.
Exercise. Exercise is good for your entire body, says Marla Ahlgrimm, and it is especially beneficial for women who experience painful menstrual cramping. Yoga, running, swimming, and even strength training produce endorphins that can help to block pain.
Have an orgasm. Arguably one of the most pleasurable ways to reduce menstrual cramping is having an orgasm. Marla Ahlgrimm notes that having climatic sex releases many of the same hormones as exercise and muscle stimulation via TENS. There are other benefits of having sex while you are on your period as well, including a decreased chance of pregnancy and natural lubrication.
According to Marla Ahlgrimm, all women are likely to experience cramping at some point in their lifetime. However, when it becomes so severe that it impacts your daily life, there may be a problem. If you believe that your cramping falls outside of the scope of normal, Marla Ahlgrimm suggests visiting your primary health care provider or speaking with your OB/GYN. Be an advocate for yourself, and remember that only you know how much pain you can take and when you need to find relief.