Dealing with menstrual cramps every month can be as frustrating as it is painful. Typically, the cramping pain starts in the lower abdomen one to two days before menstrual bleeding begins. Fortunately, there are several different home remedies that might help you relieve period cramps.
What Causes Menstrual Cramps?
Menstruation happens approximately every 28 days between puberty and menopause, except during pregnancy. It occurs when the uterus sheds its lining once a month. Menstrual cramps usually refer to a dull, throbbing, cramping pain in the lower abdomen, just above the pelvic bone. The cramps are caused by contractions in your uterus that are triggered by changes in your body’s hormone levels.
Some pain, cramping, and discomfort during menstrual periods is normal. Those with irregular cycles or heavy bleeding are more likely to experience severe period cramps. Other symptoms may include:
- Pain in the lower back and thighs
- Nausea and vomiting
- Diarrhea or loose stools
Painful menstrual periods can also be the result of an underlying medical condition, such as:
- Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS)
- Fibroids in the uterus or noncancerous tumors
If menstrual pain is interfering with your ability to perform basic tasks, talk to a gynecologist.
5 Remedies for At-Home Treatment
For mild to moderate cramps, there are various home remedies that can help provide relief.
1. Apply Heat
Heat therapy works by relaxing the muscles of the uterus. Heat can also boost circulation in your abdomen, which can reduce pain. The key is to keep the heat as continuous as possible. Tropic Pac Moist Heat Packs provide moist heat for a maximum of 30 minutes.
Menstrual pain can also affect the lower back. In about 10% of women who menstruate, the discomfort is severe enough to affect their daily life for 1–3 days each month. Try using a heat pack on the lower back to soothe aches and pain.
2. Massage with Essential Oils
Using lavender oil as an aromatherapy massage oil may greatly reduce pain and discomfort associated with menstrual cramps. Massaging the oils into the affected area is the best approach - simply add a few drops to a carrier oil. Rub a small amount on your abdomen once per day for at least one week before the start of your period.
3. Soak in a Bath
A warm bath may be just the thing you need to soothe pain and relax tense muscles. You can also add some fragrant essential oils to the water. If you're not a bath person, a warm shower can produce similar benefits and reduce pelvic pain and other symptoms.
4. Stay Hydrated
Drinking water helps reduce bloating during your period and alleviate some of the pain it causes. More specifically, hot water can increase blood flow and relax your muscles. You can also try herbal teas like chamomile, fennel, or ginger to ease cramping. These teas have anti-inflammatory properties that reduce muscle spasms in the uterus.
5. OTC Pain Relief
The hormone prostaglandin can cause muscle contractions and pain.1 Anti-inflammatory medicines like ibuprofen can provide fast-acting relief by reducing the amount of prostaglandins in your body. For best results, only take OTC medicines when you start to feel cramps.
In some cases, a doctor may prescribe hormonal birth control pills to reduce the severity of menstrual cramps. These pills work by thinning the lining of the uterus, where the prostaglandins form, which can reduce cramping and bleeding. Hormonal birth control also regulates the length and frequency of your period.
5 Exercises to Relieve Menstrual Cramps
Gentle stretching of the lower back or abdominal muscles helps relieve menstrual cramps and improve blood flow throughout the body. Moving your body allows the lymph (extra fluid in your body) to circulate and may reduce bloating. In addition, exercise can improve your mood. This is because exercise releases endorphins, which can help reduce the perception of pain and combat fatigue and exhaustion associated with your period.
If you suffer from nausea or dizziness during a heavy menstrual flow, it might be best to exercise at lower intensity levels. Light to moderate cardio, such as jogging, will get your blood flowing and heart rate elevated. The sweat released during a workout may also help remove water from your body, including the water in your stomach that you feel as part of your period bloat.
Helping regulate the menstrual cycle and flow, these exercises are designed to stretch out the tightness in your muscles to ease cramping.
1. Sumo Squat
- Begin standing with feet slightly wider than hip-width apart and feet turned slightly outwards
- At inhale, hinge at the hips and knees to lower the body down to 90-degrees
- At exhale, slowly rise back up to standing position. Perform this squat 10 times
2. Glute Bridge
- Lie face up on the floor, with your knees bent and feet flat on the ground. Keep your arms at your side with your palms down
- Lift your hips off the ground until your knees, hips and shoulders form a straight line
- Squeeze the glutes and keep your abs drawn in so you don’t overextend your back
3. Seated Forward Bend
- Begin in a seated position with legs stretched out straight in front of you and spine tall
- Inhale as you reach straight up overhead to lengthen your spine
- As you exhale, reach to grab your toes and begin to bring your body over the top of your legs
- Lower until you feel a gentle stretch in your hamstrings and lower back and hold for 30 seconds
- Modification, slightly bend the knees if your hamstring flexibility does not allow you to straighten completely
4. Camel Pose
- Begin by kneeling upright with your knees hip-distance apart
- Rest your hands on the back of your pelvis, with your fingers pointing to the floor. Lean back, with your chin slightly tucked toward your chest
- To take the pose even deeper, reach back and hold onto each heel. Rest your palms on your heels with your fingers pointing toward your toes and your thumbs holding the outside of each foot
5. Seated Twist
- Begin seated on the ground. Cross the leg at the knee and place the foot of your top leg flat on the ground
- Hug your knee close towards your chest and hold this pose for 5-10 seconds
For left twist: With your left leg over your right knee, twist towards your left thigh and hook right elbow on the outside of your knee. Place left hand on the ground behind left hip
For right twist: With your right leg over your left knee, twist towards your right thigh and hook left elbow on the outside of your knee. Place right hand on the ground behind right hip
- Druet, Anna. (2019). Period Cramps 101: Why Menstrual Cramps Happen and How to Relieve Them. Clue. Retrieved from https://bit.ly/3sJ0Ofm
- Conrad-Stoppler, Melissa. (2019). 25 Ways to Relieve Menstrual Cramps. OnHealth. Retrieved from https://bit.ly/3o1TM1N
- Epstein, Lauren. (2019). The 9 Best Exercises to Ease Period Pain. The Healthy. Retrieved from https://bit.ly/35ZQLsB
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