What helps when you have cramps?
( Note: severe cramping can be a symptom of a chronic disease called endometriosis)
When you've read this, jump to the Experience section and read what other women say about their cramps.
The first thing we usually think when the cramps start is "DRUGS!"Pain killers are the most common way to take the edge off cramps.
Advil and Motrin, and some other brands, contain ibuprofen, which relaxesmuscles, and are very popular for relieving cramps. Good old aspirin hasadvantages in that it thins blood clots, so it could make your flow easier.Acetaminophen, like Tylenol, doesn't contain aspirin, which some peopleare allergic to, and is easier on your stomach.
Drugs specifically for your period, like Pamprin and Midol are a combinationof pain relievers like those above and other ingredients which they advertisewill help relieve bloating, irritability, tiredness, etc. I do not takethese drugs because I want to know exactly what is going into my body,and maybe I want to be tired and irritable, but then I am picky about thingslike that. Some women love these combination drugs. It is up to you toexperiment until you find the brand which works best for you.
Since this means you could be taking these pills at least once a monthfor a long time, be smart about the way you take them. Don't take morethan you need, for instance, and always take these drugs with milk, orwith food in your stomach.
The best way is to take pain killers is to do what is called "pre-medicating". If you know when your period is coming, start takingyour medicine the day before your period. Somehow this blocks the painmessages before they ever make it to your brain.
Also, always take something as soon as you feel the first tiny twingeof cramping. If you wait until you are actually in the middle of a boutof cramping, it will be too late for the medicine to do much good, no matterhow many pills you take. This way you take less medicine and get more outof it.
Doctors can prescribe special medicines for menstrual pain that provesto be too strong for the drugstore varieties. It is a very common thing,so don't be even slightly embarrassed to ask.
The Natural Way
I have been menstruating for fifteen years, and in that time I've takena whole lot of pills to relieve my cramps and headaches (even though theydon't always work). A couple of years ago though, I began to think thatanother twenty years or so of gulping pills couldn't be all that good forme, so I have tried to cut down on the medication and substitute a varietyof old fashioned and alternative methods. What follows is a collectionof things I have tried, or have been recommended to me by others. Experimentand see which ones work for you.
Sometimes the simplest things work the best. My hot water bottle ismy best friend during my period. The combination of warmth and weight onmy lower abdomen is really soothing. A friendly cat could help in the sameway. If you find that weight is uncomfortable, try a light electric heatingpad. Just resting your own two hands on your stomach or lower back is probablythe oldest treatment around.
Raspberry leaf tea (not to be confused with raspberry flavored tea)has always been considered a tea which is especially good for women andmay help with cramping. Look for it in health food stores.
Drink lots of water. Avoid salty foods. Eat lots of green, leafy vegetables for their magnesium content, or take magnesium supplements. Calcium too might help. I've heard it recommended that you should take calcium every few hours while you have cramps. You also get calcium from dairy products and some veggies, like broccoli. In general, it couldn't hurt to take more of both of these minerals before your period as well.
Also make sure you are getting enough vitamin B, especially B6, by eating lots of whole-grain cereals and breads, or by taking a B complex vitamin.
Try going to a practitioner of Chinese medicine. They can give you herbalsupplements for your specific problem as well as treat you with acupuncture.I know people who have had good results from this kind of treatment. Beaware, thought, that your treatment might require regular visits over severalmonths. I've had acupuncture for other reasons, and I swear to you itworks, and it doesn't hurt.
And by the way, make sure that you get enough iron too. It doesn't helpwith cramps, but you are losing it now that you are bleeding.
Watch your blood sugar levels:
As hard is it might be, try to avoid bingeing on sugar. Eating a lotof sweet junk will give you energy for a while, and then you will crashand burn.
During this time your body is very sensitive, and prone to highs andlows anyway. You might find that you cannot eat much at once, but thatyou always feel a little hungry, or cramps might take away your appetite.Try eating several small meals a day (I call it grazing), which will keepyou energy levels steady. This is not a good time to skip meals, no matterhow busy you are, no matter what you usually do.
Take good care of yourself!
Evening Primrose Oil
This is a popular alternative-medicine treatment for both cramps and PMS.Evening primrose oil is available at health food stores in the form ofpills - gelatin capsules. Borage Oil and black currant oil are similar.Some women take one or two capsules every day, others take it only duringthe two weeks before their periods. You have to be on evening primroseoil for a couple of months before you get any results. It is rather expensive,so it is probably best to figure out how little you can take and stillget results.
Exercise in general helps lessen all sorts of problems around your period.Women who are athletic often experience less cramping and have a lighterflow than less active women. Also, in the middle of a cramp attack justgetting up and taking a walk can help a lot.
Its all about relaxation, the more you tense up, the worse the crampswill be. The more you expect that the cramps will hurt, the more they will.Take deep, slow breaths, and every time you exhale, say to yourself "relax".Your belly should rise if you are taking really deep breaths. Feel allof your muscles relaxing. Are your teeth clenched? Are your shoulders uparound your ears? Are you holding your breath?
Lie on the floor on your back and pretend you are a slice of buttermelting on toast. Breathe deeply. You are melting into the floor.
Get a friend to massage your back and shoulders to help you unwind.If you can get them to massage your lower back, even better! You can massageyour own stomach in a circular motion or however feels best.
Tell me, what does a hot bath not help?
Go with the Pain
Part of relaxation is accepting the pain you are feeling. Do not moanabout it or try to ignore it, instead recognize it and try to relax intoit. This doesn't mean you should try to make yourself feel worse than youalready do, it means you should say to yourself "yes, this is my pain,this is how big it is, I accept it, and now I'm going to relax." Iknow this sounds weird, but it really helps if you are having a rough timewith cramps.
If this fails, watch TV until you go into a stupor.
Cramps may be relieved by the contractions in the uterus that happenduring orgasm - sexual climax. If you have never masturbated, try it! It'syour body, and it's your right to know how it works and how to give yourselfpleasure. Orgasm relaxes you and relieves that blocked up feeling, plusit makes you feel good all over, which is just what you need when you areexperiencing a cramp attack.
I try to make time during my period to be alone. Being around a lotof people, or rushing here and there, is really hard on me and just makesme more tired and more crampy. I find that I can think through problemsespecially well at that time if I give myself the chance. I am also morecreative. So I set aside these days just for me, and I find that I enjoymy period much more.
In many cultures women go into isolation during their periods, and although that may seem sexist at first, it might actually be a smart way of makingsure that a woman can have some time for herself at this special time.