Painful periods: what to do?

Règles douloureuses
One in two women consider that they suffer from painful periods 1 . Abdominal cramps , tightness in the lower back , twinges in the kidneys , tension in the thighs : these are the manifestations most often reported by affected menstruators . These period pains , or dysmenorrhea in medical language, generally occur during the first days of menstruation , when the menstrual flow is the most abundant. In many cases, they appear a few days before, constituting a symptom of premenstrual syndrome ( PMS ), and continue throughout the period . Of varying intensity from one woman to another, this cyclical physical suffering can be a real obstacle to carrying out daily activities. But then, in case of painful periods, what to do? Here are some tips to help you relieve menstrual pain and experience calmer cycles .

Painful periods: what to do first? Diagnose the nature of the pain

Consult a healthcare professional

As your period approaches or during your period, you are used to experiencing unpleasant and painful sensations in the pelvis. You have particularly intense stomach aches that force you to stay in bed. You suffer from shooting pain in your back that prevents you from leading your life normally. Sometimes these spasms spread down to your legs. You are prone to headaches or nausea, or even vomiting. If you haven't already done so, contact a healthcare professional. We can never repeat it enough: for any medical subject, it is essential to consult a competent practitioner. Regarding disorders of the female genital system, seek advice from a general practitioner, a gynecologist or a midwife, to benefit from a safe and effective medical consultation. Thanks to a clinical examination and possible analyzes (pregnancy test, ultrasound, MRI, etc.), a diagnosis is established. You then know precisely what type of menstrual pain you suffer from: primary or secondary dysmenorrhea.
Consult a healthcare professional
Be careful not to confuse these recurring period pains without direct serious impact with the symptoms of menstrual toxic shock (generally including a sudden fever above 39°C), linked to prolonged wearing of intravaginal protection, which can lead to very serious complications.

Differentiate between primary and secondary dysmenorrhea

Primary dysmenorrhea corresponds to period pain which is only associated with the occurrence of menstruation, that is to say which does not result from any other identifiable cause. Very common, it is without serious complications. It generally begins in adolescence, during the first cycles. This explains why around 60% of women under the age of 20 report having painful periods 1 . These menstrual pains are due to excessive secretion of prostaglandins, the hormones which cause contractions of the uterus allowing the evacuation of the endometrium at each start of the cycle. They tend to fade over time, or even disappear spontaneously or following an event such as pregnancy, but persist in certain cases.

Conversely, secondary dysmenorrhea, occurring later, in adult women who do not initially suffer from painful menstruation, is a sign of a dysfunction. It can accompany excessively heavy periods (hypermenorrhea) or result from endometriosis, adenomyosis, uterine fibroids, ovarian disorders, a change in hormonal contraception, a congenital malformation, etc.

Once the diagnosis has been made, you can then follow the treatment best suited to your situation.

Treating period pain

The basic instructions to apply to reduce menstrual cramps 2 are:
  • to rest and get enough sleep;
  • adopt a diet low in fat and enriched in omega-3 fatty acids, magnesium or even zinc;
  • not to consume alcohol or tobacco;
  • to have moderate physical activity or to practice a gentle sport, such as yoga.

Practicing yoga during your period

If pain persists, it is possible to supplement these good habits by taking certain medications or using natural alternatives.

Take medical treatment for menstrual pain

In the case of secondary dysmenorrhea, the goal is to intervene directly on the dysfunction or disease causing the pain. A treatment adapted to this cause is then prescribed (taking hormonal contraception, surgical intervention, etc.).

When it comes to primary dysmenorrhea, since there is no underlying cause to act on, it is the symptoms that we seek to alleviate. Depending in particular on the intensity of the pain and the age of the patient, and in the absence of contraindications, it is recommended to take:

  • nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen;
  • antispasmodics;
  • progestins, administered by contraceptive pill or via an intrauterine device (IUD) delivering progesterone. 3-4

Aspirin, however, is not recommended: because of its blood-thinning effect, it is likely to increase the abundance and duration of menstrual bleeding.

Testing natural remedies to relieve period pain

Even if their effectiveness has not been rigorously demonstrated in controlled scientific studies, certain practices are recommended to naturally combat painful periods:

  • Food supplements against painful periods
    use certain plants (phytotherapy) known for their soothing effects, to consume in infusion or in the form of nutritional supplements such as food supplements from the Inher range from D+ for care , specially designed for period pain;
  • use heat, for example using a hot water bottle to place on sensitive areas;
  • practice relaxation and sophrology exercises;
  • do acupuncture sessions;
  • try transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (or TENS), a method consisting of applying a weak electrical current to the area to be relieved using electrodes placed on the surface of the skin;
  • wear healthy, soft and aesthetic period protection, for greater well-being and comfort, such as Perdième menstrual underwear .
Menstrual underwear Perdième pattern Pondicherry
    What to do about painful periods? Now you know! It's up to you to put these different tips into practice and definitely adopt the ones that suit you best.
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      Written by cd


      1. French women, menstrual cups and the impact of periods on their lives . Ifop study for Intimina carried out by self-administered online questionnaire from April 17 to 18, 2021 with a sample of 1010 women, representative of the French female population aged 15 to 49 residing in mainland France. IFOP.
      2. Pinkerton, J. V. (2022, April 5). Menstrual cramps . The MSD Manual for the General Public.
      3. How to treat painful periods? . VIDAL.
      4. Painful periods: consultation and treatment .