Menstrual pain is common and can be a real pain for women. When menstruation begins, many women experience menstrual pain, for example, more or less severe menstrual pain. Ten out of every 100 women suffer so badly from it that they have to take a break from everyday life for at least one day. So for some women there are a few days every month that they would like to skip.
Often the pain and cramps are not limited to the abdomen. Rather, the menstrual pain can radiate into the back and can then be perceived as back pain. Some women also experience nausea and diarrhea in the course of their period pains.
The unpleasant symptoms do not necessarily begin with menstruation, but can also start a few days before. Women then already have menstrual pain before their period, often in the form of cramp-like pain in the lower abdomen, sometimes accompanied by headaches or migraines. Such menstrual problems are called dysmenorrhea in medical jargon.
Every woman must live with her monthly period until menopause, but not with the annoying accompaniments of menstruation. Women can also do a lot themselves to relieve the menstrual pain. Read about the causes of menstrual pain and when you should see your doctor about it.
Menstrual pain: causes are different
The cause of menstrual pain depends on the type of dysmenorrhea. Doctors differentiate between primary and secondary period pain.
Primary menstrual pain – muscle play of the uterus
Primary period pain occurs when the uterine muscles contract. This is a completely normal process, because the lining of the uterus rebuilds in every menstrual cycle and then recedes again with your period – provided you do not become pregnant. This breakdown occurs when the uterus detaches the mucous membrane from its wall through irregular muscle contractions and expels it – mixed with blood and tissue – from the vagina. Some women do not even notice this “muscle play”. Others only feel a slight pulling sensation, some feel real pain. This can be limited to the lower abdomen or radiate into the back and legs. Headaches, nausea and diarrhoea are also frequent companions of menstrual pain.
Often women with heavy periods also have more pronounced complaints. In addition, smokers have a higher risk of period pains than non-smokers. Why some women have menstrual pain and others do not, however, has not been conclusively clarified. Doctors assume that women with menstrual pain have an excess or (over)sensitivity to prostaglandins. These are messenger substances that influence the sensation of pain and the contraction of the uterine muscles.
Secondary menstrual pain: Causes are other diseases
Secondary menstrual pain is often caused by other diseases. Possible diseases that can trigger menstrual pain are, for example:
Endometriosis, in which parts of the lining of the uterus are located outside the uterus and burst in the abdominal cavity. As with normal menstruation, it builds up and breaks down there, which can be very painful.
Benign tumors, growths or polyps in the uterus
The coil – a frequently used contraceptive – can also be the cause of (secondary) menstrual pain.
Menstrual pain, but no menstruation? Possible reasons!
Menstrual pain can even occur without bleeding, for example during pregnancy when the uterus expands and the hormone balance changes. Even during menopause, some women do not bleed, but still experience the typical symptoms of menstrual pain. This is because during this phase of life the hormones “sort themselves out” anew. The production of oestrogens thus decreases further and further.
However, the cause of menstrual pain without a period can also be of an organic nature. For example, an ectopic pregnancy, cystitis or uterus prolapse could be present. Therefore you should always go to a gynecologist if you have symptoms but no menstrual period.
What should I do if I have menstrual pain?
Menstrual pain – what helps? This question cannot be answered in a generalized way, because women are individually different. However, there are some measures and tips that have proven to be effective for menstrual pain. Here are a few examples:
- Some people find it beneficial to make themselves comfortable with a hot water bottle on their stomach to relieve menstrual pain.
- Others prefer to actively distract themselves from their symptoms, for example by exercising or playing sports.
- Some people take painkillers for menstrual pain. Studies have shown that ibuprofen, diclofenac and naproxen can help with menstrual pain. Hormonal contraceptives (e.g. the “pill”) can also relieve the symptoms. Most women tolerate these drugs for dysmenorrhea therapy well, but they can have side effects. It is best to talk to your doctor about which drug is suitable for you.