Painful Menstrual Cramps: Description, Symptoms, Considerations, Causes and Treatment


Menstrual Cramps is a feeling of pain during the period, ranging from mild to intense, caused by the womb’s muscles tightening.

Description and Symptoms

Menstrual cramps consist of muscle cramps in the lower abdomen, caused by contractions of the womb (uterus). These contractions help expel the menstrual flow from the uterus.

The cramps often decrease in severity once a woman has had a child. When menstrual cramps cause severe pain, people find that they exert greater pressure, last longer, and are more frequent than usual.

These are periods in which a woman experiences colic in the lower abdomen, which can be acute and intermittent. You may also have back pain.

Feeling some mild pain during menstruation is normal, but feeling a severe pain is not. The medical term for excessively painful periods is dysmenorrhea.

Sometimes other symptoms occur, such as a headache, nausea, constipation, or diarrhea. These are thought to be caused by the effects of prostaglandins in the body.

If menstrual cramps start becoming worse than usual, it’s a good idea to consult a physician, so that you can be checked out to make sure no other disease is present.


Many women have painful menstrual periods. Sometimes pain makes it difficult to perform normal academic, home, and work activities for a few days during each menstrual cycle.

Painful menstruation is the reduce the performance of women in both school and work, as it affects females in their teens and women between 20 and 30 years of age

What Causes Menstrual Cramps

Most women have some cramping and discomfort during menstruation.

It is not clear why the pain is worse for some woman than others. Sometimes other conditions, such as fibroids, adenomyosis, or endometriosis, make the cramps worse.

The body naturally releases substances called prostaglandins during menstruation and cause contractions.

Medical experts think that an excess of these prostaglandins leads to more severe cramps.

An unusually narrow cervical canal can make menstrual cramps worse, by restricting the normal flow.

Painful menstrual periods are classified into two groups, depending on the cause:

  • Primary dysmenorrhoea
  • Secondary dysmenorrhoea

Primary dysmenorrhea refers to menstrual pain that occurs more or less at the time when the menstrual periods begin in otherwise healthy women.

In most cases, this kind of pain is not related to specific problems in the womb or other pelvic organs.

Increased prostaglandin hormone activity, which occurs in the uterus, is thought to play a significant role in this condition.

Secondary dysmenorrhea is menstrual pain that develops later in women who have had regular periods. It is often related to problems in the uterus or other pelvic organs, such as:

  • Endometriosis.
  • Fibroids.
  • Intrauterine device (IUD) made of copper.
  • Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID).
  • Premenstrual syndrome (PMS).
  • Sexually Transmitted Infection.
  • Stress and anxiety.

Home care

The following steps can help you avoid using prescription drugs:

  • Apply a heating pad to the lower abdomen below the navel. Never fall asleep with the pad on.
  • Do soft circular massage with the tips of the fingers around the lower abdomen.
  • Drink hot liquids.
  • Eat little but often.
  • Keep legs elevated while lying down or lie on your side with your legs bent.
  • Practice relaxation techniques such as meditation or yoga.
  • Try over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen. Start taking it the day before the expected start of the period and continue regularly during the first few days of that period.
  • Try supplements of vitamin B6, calcium and magnesium, especially if the pain is due to PMS.
  • Take showers or hot baths.
  • Walk or exercise regularly, including pelvic swing exercises.
  • Lose weight if you are overweight. Do regular aerobic exercise.

If these personal care measures do not work, your health care provider may offer treatments such as:

  • Birth control pills.
  • Mirena IUD.
  • Anti-inflammatories.
  • Pain relievers (including narcotics for short periods).
  • Antidepressants.
  • Antibiotics.

How to Stop Menstrual Cramps – Treatment

Many women take painkillers to deal with menstrual cramps. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen (Advil), aspirin, or naproxen, usually are the most effective.

People can also use Acetaminophen (paracetamol), but it’s not quite as effective as the NSAIDs.

It’s a lot better for the woman to take painkillers before periods start, rather than waiting for the pain to begin. Then they can use them during the period until cramps diminish.

NSAIDs can sometimes cause side-effects, such as stomach bleeding, so are not suitable for everybody. Never exceed the recommended dose of any painkiller.

The Combined Oral Contraceptive Pill usually gives lighter and less painful periods, and many women use it for this reason, even when they don’t need to for contraceptive purposes.

The pill does give an increased risk of thrombosis, so should not be used for those at high risks, such as smokers over the age of 35.

On the other hand, the pill decreases the risk of some other serious diseases, such as ovarian cancer.

The Levonorgestrel Intrauterine System (LNG-IUS) is a contraceptive implant that secretes the hormone levonorgestrel.

Usually, it gets used for relieving the symptoms of menstrual cramps. Mirena is a well-known brand.

Aerobic Exercise is good for menstrual cramps. You may not feel like doing anything, but it usually helps to get moving. Some women find walking the best exercise, while others prefer jogging.

Heat treatments, such as a hot water bottle or a microwave heating pad, are surprisingly effective in reducing period pain for many women. Warm baths or showers can also help relieve symptoms.

Diet: A healthy diet, with plenty of vegetables and whole grains, but low in salt, sugar, caffeine, and alcohol, can help reduce menstrual cramping.

Magnesium supplements have been shown to help reduce period pain. People can find magnesium in many foods.

Green vegetables, such as spinach, are an excellent source of magnesium, along with nuts, whole wheat flour, and brown rice.

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call your provider right away if you have:

  • An increase in vaginal discharge or foul-smelling vaginal discharge
  • Fever and Pelvic Pain
  • Sudden or severe pain, especially if your period gets delayed for more than one week and you have been sexually active

Also call if:

  • Treatments do not relieve pain after three months.
  • You have pain and an IUD that was placed more than three months ago.
  • It eliminates blood clots or has other symptoms of pain.
  • The pain occurs at times other than menstruation, begins more than five days before the menstrual period or continues after the period is over.