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Menstrual cramps are painful sensations in a woman's lower abdomen and sometimes lower back, which occur when her menstrual period begins or just before. It usually begins 1 to 2 days before menstruation and lasts from 2 to 4 days.


Menstrual pain as it is sometimes called is common and a normal part of a woman’s menstrual cycle. Most women experience it at some point in their lives. Menstrual cramps are the leading cause of absenteeism in women younger than 30.



Once in every menstrual cycle (approximately 28 days, which varies from person to person) if there is no sperm to fertilize the egg, the uterus contracts to expel its lining.


Hormone-like substances called prostaglandins trigger this process.


Prostaglandins are chemicals that form in the lining of the uterus during menstruation. They cause muscle contractions and cramps that are similar to labour pains. They can also contribute to nausea and diarrhoea.



In addition to cramps in the lower abdomen and lower back just above the pelvic bone, a woman may also experience some of these symptoms with menstrual cramps:

  • Pain in the hips or thighs, sometimes radiating down the entire legs

  • Nausea

  • Vomiting

  • Bloating

  • Diarrhoea or loose stools

  • Constipation

  • Headaches

  • Irritability

  • Sweating

  • Weakness

  • Fainting spells (in extreme cases)


Risk factors

Those who are more likely to experience menstrual pain include:

  • being younger than 20 years of age

  • starting puberty at 11 years or younger

  • menorrhagia

  • never having given birth


Measures that may reduce the risk of menstrual cramps include:
  • eating fruits and vegetables and limiting intake of fat, alcohol, caffeine, salt, and sweets

  • keeping a normal body weight

  • exercising regularly

  • reducing stress

  • quitting smoking



Over-the-counter medication is available to treat most cases of menstrual cramps.


Anti-prostaglandins reduce cramping in the uterus, lighten the flow of blood, and relieve discomfort.


These medications may also contain pain killers, such as ibuprofen or naproxen. These are types of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). NSAIDs are also used alone to reduce menstrual cramp pain.


If the woman is a good candidate, a physician may prescribe hormonal birth control pills to prevent ovulation and reduce the severity of menstrual cramps. These work by thinning the lining of the uterus, where the prostaglandins form. This reduces cramping and bleeding.



Culled from Staywellworld blog post dated March 06, 2018.

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