Dysmenorrhea: Understanding Chronic Period Pain and Your Different Treatment Options
Truth is, is that, there is a large number of teenage girls, young and adult women that experience some amount of pain and discomfort associated with their period. More than half of women do, because that's just how common it is!
While period pain is common it certainly should not be considered normal for women to experience. And, nor should it be ignored or left untreated.
But there’s actually a medical term that describes the condition when it becomes uncomfortable enough to warrant treatment: dysmenorrhea.
What is dysmenorrhea?
Dysmenorrhea is the term for moderate to severe pain associated with a woman's mentrual period or menstrual cramps. There are two types of dysmenorrhea: primary and secondary.
- Primary dysmenorrhea is the name used when pain is from the menstration process itself and isn't due to underlying diseases. Pain may begin one or three days before period and last until two to three days after the onset of menstruation. Pain ranges from mild to severe in the lower abdomen, back or thighs. You might have other symptoms, such as nausea and vomiting, fatigue, and even diarrhea.
- Secondary dysmenorrhea is the name used to describe painful periods caused by a disorder or an infection in the womb/reproductive organs. Pain from secondary dysmenorrhea may begin earlier in the menstrual cycle and lasts longer than common menstrual cramps. The duration and intensity of pain depends on the condition that causes symptoms. Nausea, vomiting, or fatigue are typically not associated with secondary dysmenorrhea.
What are the symptoms of Dysmenorrhea?
Symptoms of dysmenorrhea can be painful and incredibly difficult to deal with for any woman who finds themselves affected. It be emotionally draining, just as it is physically draining and there are several symptoms that always seem to come along for the ride.
Symptoms may include:
- Severly painful menstrual cramps
- Throbbing or achiness in lower abdomen
- Back and pelvic pain
- An increasing urge to pee
- Low energy
- Pain or achiness that radiates to legs or thighs
What causes dysmenorrhea?
High levels of prostaglandins can be responsible for primary dysmenorrhea. During a menstrual cycle, the uterus produces different levels of chemicals called prostaglandins. Prostaglandins cause uterine contractions, leading to cramping as the uterine muscles contract and relax.
A magnesium, protein or omega 3 deficiency can also cause painful period cramps. Consuming lots of raw and cold foods, slow qi, poor blood circulation, emotional and physical tension in the body can all also contribute to very painful periods and primary dymenorrhea.
Menstrual pain from secondary dysmenorrhea is a result of underlying problems within the womb and reproductive organs such as:
- Endometriosis: A condition in which the tissue lining the uterus (the endometrium) is found outside of the uterus. Because these pieces of tissue bleed during your period, they can cause swelling, scarring and pain.
- Adenomyosis: A condition where the lining of the uterus grows into the muscle of the uterus. This condition can cause the uterus to get much bigger than it should be, along with abnormal bleeding and pain.
- Ovarian Cyst: A condition where fluid-filled sacs or pockets in or on the surface of ovary.
- Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID): An infection caused by bacteria that starts in the uterus and can spread to other reproductive organs. PID can cause pain in the stomach or pain during sex.
- Fibroids (benign tumors): Growths on the inside, outside or in the walls of the uterus
- Cervical stenosis: Narrowing of the cervix, or the opening to the uterus.
How is dysmenorrhea treated?
Medical treatments includes:
- Oral contraceptives (birth control pills) containing both estrogen and progestin, which suppress ovulation and reduce (more like silence) symptoms
- Other methods of hormonal contraception, such as the patch, ring, or shot, or long-acting reversible methods such as an intrauterine device (IUD) or implant
- Prescription-strength or over-the-counter NSAIDs for pain relief alone or in combination with other medications
- Other medications, which may ease symptoms from secondary causes
Natural treatment includes:
- Addressing underlying root causes
- Herbs (Period Support, Period Tea or Womb Steams)
- Placing a heating pad on the lower abdomen
- Castor oil
- Your orgasms
- Taking a warm or hot shower or bath
- Womb massage
- Going for a walk
- Doing yoga
- Getting enough rest or quality sleep
- Avoiding alcoholic beverages
- Quitting smoking
- Consuming omega-3 fatty acids
- Eating less inflammatory foods
- Magnesium supplemetation
- Hydrating and drinking enough fluids
Love and health,