What Causes Menstrual Cramps?

>> Thursday, October 17, 2013

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I hope everyone had a great week. This week we are moving on from the menopause topic and have a question that I think all of you struggle with (some of you more than others, but I know it is a common problem).

Dear KnowYourV, what causes menstrual cramps, and is there anything I can do to help make them better?
Thanks, Alison!

Well, Alison, dymenorrhea is the medical term for the painful cramps that occur before or during your period. Most women feel cramps in their lower abdomen and lower back. Because they can start the day before your period, they can last up to 3 days and can be mild to extremely painful.

Cramps are caused by contractions in the uterus, which is a muscle. The uterus is a hollow, pear-shaped organ where a baby grows, and it contracts throughout a woman's menstrual cycle. If the uterus contracts too strongly, it can press against nearby blood vessels, cutting off the supply of oxygen to the muscle tissue of the uterus. Pain can result when part of the uterine muscle briefly loses its supply of oxygen. This is similar to how a side ache feels when you run too far without stopping to rest. Your side aches and cramps because of a build up of something called lactic acid in the muscle due to lack of oxygen. It hurts when that happens! That's what's happening in your uterus when it's cramping.

Some of the best remedies to help alleviate the pain and cramping are simple things like aspirin, Tylenol, Motrin or other over-the-counter pain relievers. Sometimes prescription strength pain relievers can be used, but either way it is best to start pain medications the day before your cycle, as this blocks the onset of the cramps altogether and may even help reduce menstrual blood flow. Please always discuss the use of any medications with your doctor or other healthcare professional.

You can also use heating pads or hot water bottles on your lower back and abdomen, or a hot bath if it helps. Massage of the lower back and abdomen can also be helpful. Some women find that avoiding caffeine, alcohol and smoking during this time can help. Women who exercise regularly often have less menstrual pain.

If these steps don't help your pain, or if you've already tried them and they haven't helped, you may need to make an appointment with your gynecologist for a thorough evaluation. You could have endometriosis, fibroids, interstitial cystitis, diverticulitis, adenomyosis, cervical stenosis or pelvic inflammatory disease.

So as you can see it can get more and more complicated. I hope this has helped you begin to get an understanding of yourself so you can begin to feel better!

Thank you to those of you who wrote in and came into the office for WaterWorks this week. I know you will love it as we all do. It is a fantastic way to maintain feminine hygiene without the use of medications or chemicals. It couldn't have come at a better time, when all of us are searching for more natural ways to take care of our bodies.

I have had so many patients who have battled vaginal odor for years report that they no longer have problems, even after the first time they used WaterWorks. And you don't need to have a vaginal odor problem to discover the benefits of WaterWorks. Many women use it every day just to feel fresh and clean. You can even use it to rinse out semen after sex which will make you feel fresher right away. The medical grade stainless steel nozzle reacts with normal tap water to remove odor as you rinse. No more douching (which we prefer you never do anyway!)

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