How to Get Rid of Cramps

Three Methods:Seeking Immediate ReliefSeeking Long-Term SolutionsTreating More Severe Medical Conditions

There are a number of immediate and long-term strategies that you can try to alleviate your menstrual cramps. Sometimes cramps can be alleviated with lifestyle methods alone; other times there is a more serious medical condition going on such as endometriosis (where you have menstrual tissue located outside the uterus that gets inflamed every month with your period). In more severe cases, medical treatments such as birth control pills, IUDs, or even surgical procedures can be of great help. [Click here] if you are suffering from generalized muscle cramps elsewhere in the body that are not related to your period.

Method 1
Seeking Immediate Relief

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    Take pain medication.[1] Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as Ibuprofen (Aspirin) provide very effective pain relief for cramps. NSAIDs tend to work quickly, easing the pain within half an hour or so. They are available over-the-counter in most countries. Follow the dosing instructions on the bottle. Generally, you can take 400-600mg every 4-6 hours as needed.[2]
    • Acetaminophen (Tylenol) is another option that can help with the pain of menstrual cramps. It can be used in addition to NSAIDs as they work via different mechanisms in your body.
    • If over-the-counter pain medications such as Ibuprofen and Acetaminophen are insufficient to control your pain, you can speak to your physician for a prescription-strentgh alternative such as Naproxen (Anaprox), which will be more effective in controlling your menstrual pain.
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    Apply some heat. Menstrual cramps are located in the uterus, which contracts to release its lining when you have your period. The uterus, like any muscle, relaxes in response to warm temperatures, so applying some heat to your abdomen may help get cramps to go away faster.[3]
    • Fill a hot water bottle and lay it across your stomach while you are resting. Let it sit for as long as you'd like.
    • Make sure you do not fall asleep while the heating pad is on you.[4]
    • Another option is to draw a warm bath and soak for about half an hour. Try to relax your muscles in response to the warm water.
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    Massage the area.[5] Massaging your abdominal region and lower back is a great way to loosen the muscle tension and to relieve cramps. Place your hands over your stomach or back and gently knead the area. A vibrating self-massaging tool applied to your back can also help, or you could ask a partner to massage you.
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    Have sex.[6] Depending on how you feel about having sex while on your period (and also what part of your period you are on - for instance, it is easier to have sex in the final few days when your blood flow is lighter), consider having sex to relieve pain from menstrual cramps. The chemicals released in your body during sex act as pain-killers, and can also help to relax the muscles in that area of your body.
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    Drink hot tea. Tea can help to settle your stomach and to relieve aching muscles. Certain types of tea have properties that can relax the uterus and help to get rid of painful cramping. Brew yourself a pot of one of these types of tea:
    • Raspberry leaf, which eases muscle cramps.[7]
    • Cramp bark, which relaxes the uterus.
    • Dong Quai, which soothes the nervous system.

Method 2
Seeking Long-Term Solutions

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    Don't ingest substances that make cramps worse. Caffeine, alcohol, and sugar make cramps feel worse and cause them to last longer.[8] Limiting these substances throughout the month, and especially during your period when you feel cramps coming on, can prevent cramps from feeling as painful.
    • Limit your intake of coffee, black tea, and caffeinated soda.
    • Avoid drinking too much wine, beer, or hard alcohol, especially while you're on your period.
    • Reduce your consumption of fast food, snack foods, and other foods that have high glycemic indices (foods that are high in carbohydrates, salt and sugar).
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    Move your body. Studies show that women who exercise regularly don't experience cramps as severely as women who don't exercise regularly.[9] Exercising throughout the month helps to prevent severe cramps, and exercising while you have cramps can loosen your muscles and ease some of the pain.
    • Incorporate running, walking, biking, or swimming into your routine.
    • Weight training strengthens your muscles and contributes to overall wellness, so it's a good idea to add a weight component to your workouts.
    • Yoga is a relaxing form of exercise to try while you are experiencing cramps.
    • Also, being closer to your ideal body weight has been correlated with reduced pain during menstrual cramps.[10]
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    Try taking a hormonal birth control pill.[11] Some women take hormonal birth control pills, which contain estrogen and progestin, as a way to control the severity of their menstrual cramps. The birth control pill thins the uterine lining, so the uterus doesn't contract as much to release it when your period comes. Speak to your doctor about getting a prescription for birth control pills if this is of interest to you. It is actually the first-line medical treatment used in cases of severe menstrual cramps.
    • The same hormones as those found in the birth control pill can also be administered using injections, a patch, or a vaginal ring. Talk to your doctor about the best method for your needs.
    • Another option is to try progesterone-only treatment. This is usually tried as a secondary measure if the birth control pill does not work; however, for some women, it seems to be more effective.[12]
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    Get a Mirena IUD inserted.[13] This is a device that is inserted directly into the uterus. It functions both as contraception, and has the added benefit of greatly diminishing menstrual flow and menstrual cramps. Some women find that their period almost disappears when they are using a Mirena IUD (the bleeding and cramping becomes very light, and for some women it can go away altogether). Getting a Mirena IUD is more expensive upfront (speak to your doctor about the costs, which are usually a few hundred dollars); however, you can leave it in and it is effective for up to 5 years.
    • Having a Mirena IUD inserted is one of the most effective long-term solutions for alleviating painful menstrual cramps.
    • The Mirena IUD is also the "gold standard" of contraception, which is the term doctors use to describe the fact that it is the number one most effective way to prevent unwanted pregnancies.
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    See your naturopath for supplements. Some supplements such as Chasteberry, Macagen, and Magnesium, among others, have been shown to reduce painful menstrual cramps when taken over a long period of time. It takes consistent use to notice the benefits of these supplements. Speak to your naturopath if this is an avenue you would like to explore.
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    Quit smoking.[14] Smoking has been linked to a higher incidence of painful menstrual cramps. Therefore, if you have been considering quitting and also happen to suffer from painful period cramps, now may be the time to quit smoking as the benefits to your health are multiple.

Method 3
Treating More Severe Medical Conditions

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    Ask your doctor about endometriosis.[15] Endometriosis is a condition where uterine tissue is present outside of the uterus, elsewhere in the abdominal cavity. It is usually confined to the pelvic region, meaning that uterine tissue is often located on the ovaries or elsewhere in the pelvis such as on the lower bowels. Every month at the time of your period, this tissue also becomes inflamed, leading to abdominal pain that can be severe enough to limit your daily function. Pain medications and hormonal treatments may not be enough to control the pain from endometriosis. This is because it is a condition that requires more extensive medical evaluation and intervention.
    • If you suspect you may have endometriosis, the first step is to book an appointment with your doctor who can set you up for the necessary tests.
    • The only way to confirm (and to treat) endometriosis is via laparoscopic surgery.
    • You will have a daytime surgery (of less than an hour duration) where an OB/GYN medical specialist will insert a camera through some small openings in your abdomen to check for the presence of uterine tissue outside of the uterus.
    • If any uterine tissue is found in the abdominal cavity, the surgeon can perform "ablation," meaning getting rid of the tissue that is not supposed to be there.
    • Following this procedure, your menstrual pain should be greatly diminished (if not eliminated altogether).
    • It is important to treat endometriosis if you suspect you may have it because, if present for a long time, it can lead to complications such as chronic pelvic pain or troubles with fertility.
    • Speak to your doctor for further information if you suspect this may apply to you.
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    Consider "endometrial ablation."[16] If you are an older woman who is no longer seeking to become pregnant, another way to handle painful menstrual cramps is through a surgical procedure called "endometrial ablation." What this means is that a device is inserted through your vagina into your uterus, and the menstrual tissue lining the uterine wall is "burned off," or removed. You will be under general anesthesia at this time, so you will not feel any pain.
    • The next time your period is supposed to come, there will be very little to no menstrual tissue left to become inflamed.
    • As a result, you will experience minimal to no bleeding at the time of your period, and it should also make a notable difference in getting rid of your pain.
    • Your surgeon will aim to remove 90% of the uterine endometrial tissue at the time of surgery, so often about 10% remains.
    • This slightly more conservative is to make sure that he or she does not accidentally damage the uterus itself.
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    Always see your doctor in more severe cases of menstrual pain. [17] In extreme cases of painful menstrual cramps, it may mean that something more severe is going on. Your doctor may need to perform blood tests, or even to insert a laparoscopic camera into your lower abdomen or pelvic area to see what is going on. If you have more complex issues that go beyond simple period cramps, it is important to have this diagnosed and treated appropriately. Most solutions to more complex issues are surgical.

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Categories: Cramps