What do Cramps Feel Like: 3 Alarming Symptoms

It must have happened that you would have seen your friend, girlfriend, sister, or any woman go through period pain and still go on with their daily lives. And no, they don’t exaggerate the pain, it’s as unbearable as any other physical pain.

Everyone goes through cramps sometimes, may it be because of exercise, weight-lifting, or periods, also known as menstrual cramps, but what do cramps feel like?

We all know that periods are a naturally occurring phenomenon and quite annoying for most of us. As periods approach, the cramps start a day before or the day the periods happen, and this pain can vary from person to person.

Yet there are certain details one should know about periods and period cramps, and especially what cramps feel like. To know further about what cramps feel like, let us dig in!

Is Having Period Cramps Bad?

Some might ask if cramps are bad or not out of curiosity, then let me know that cramps are not always a bad health sign. Rather, they can be premenstrual symptoms1 and are normal. 

The average standard cramps of a healthy human being are noted as 2-3 days. If people experience cramping or painful cramps beyond that are suggested to consult a doctor.

[Note- Though any learned doctor can and will be able to spot any problem, consulting a gynecologist is our piece of advice.]

What are Menstrual Cramps/Period Cramps?

To know what cramps feel like, we must know what menstrual cramps are; this section is all about menstrual cramps. Menstrual cramps, also known as dysmenorrhea in medical terms, are a common symptom of periods.

Generally, these cramps occur in every menstrual cycle, a common symptom faced by most women who bleed every month.

These cramps can vary from person to person, some people can feel them, and some might not have them. Period cramps usually last 3-4 days, and these cramps interfere with normal day-to-day life.

Those with this pain can feel this short period of pain, and some might not have a painful period of pain; rather, a dull and constant lower abdomen pain is all they feel.

Not just as mentioned above, these cramps may extend or can happen without periods. If this type of cramp happens, one should seek a medical professional.

Why do Period Cramps Happen?

Period cramps mainly happen because the uterine lining contracts to shed itself. Certain hormones like prostaglandin levels 2get higher, the higher the prostaglandin levels, the more severe menstrual cramps happen.

Other underlying conditions/medical conditions can also lead to severe pain, which is discussed further in this article. Therefore, read till the end.

These menstrual cramps can also happen due to certain diseases or an underlying cause such as uterine fibroids, endometriosis, polycystic ovary syndrome, cervical stenosis, or due to adenomyosis Anything mentioned above can happen, and also we will share a glimpse of every disease mentioned earlier here:-

Uterine Fibroids

In most cases, the tissue mimics the lining of the uterus that grows outside the uterus. This occurs mostly on the lining of the fallopian tubes, ovaries, or pelvic linings, which might cause cramps or pelvic pain.

Endometriosis and Pelvic Inflammatory Disease.

Endometriosis3 and pelvic inflammatory disease4 are non-cancerous growths in the uterus wall that can cause pain. However, pelvic inflammatory disease is an infection in the female sexual organs and can be sexually transmitted.

This disease often hampers the body by blocking or making it harder for the sperm to meet the ovum and produce a fertilized egg. The doctor usually does a pelvic exam to check such medical conditions.

If these diseases were treated, the severe menstrual cramps and the disease would be cured, but the period pain can happen anyway. Now a question must arise as women bleed for most of their lives, Do they have to bear the pain all life long till they bleed?

Well, after the first child’s birth, the period cramps might feel a little less painful periods other than that, period cramps are something natural that must be faced.

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome

Here is another reason for severe cramps and heavy bleeding, generally known as PCOS, which is very common in one out of ten women affected by this medical condition.

In these conditions, the androgen hormone levels go up, messing with the normal hormone level of the affected women. This medical condition often results in heavy bleeding or turns the periods heavy, accompanied by severe period pains.

It is also treatable and gets cured with time, and lifestyle management plays a pivotal role in curing the disease.

Cervical Stenosis

Cervical stenosis is nothing major, but some women have a small cervical opening. This cervical opening is so small that it is hard for the menstrual blood to flow off; this is why extreme pressure is inside the uterus, causing intense pain.


Adenomyosis is also uterus uterus-related problem, It is almost similar to Endometriosis and Pelvic Inflammatory Disease but slightly different in the case of Adenomyosis.

In Adenomyosis, the uterine lining tissue starts to grow into the muscular walls of the uterus; this growth causes pain or cramps.

What do Cramps Feel Like?

Now coming to the main question asked, What do cramps feel like? Well, as mentioned earlier, cramps vary from person to person.

The feeling of cramps is subjective to the person; typically, cramps are annoying and painful. Also, sometimes cramps interfere with the daily routine, including office, school, and college.

As per many doctors and also by global reports, cramps happen anywhere between before the occurrence of periods to the day when periods start and can last up to 4-5 days.

However, the pain mostly fades away on the 3rd or the 4th day of the period.

There is no exact definition of what cramps feel like; they can be intense pain or chronic pelvic pain, yet here are some common symptoms mentioned as suggested by many:-

1. Shakiness

Shakiness is something we can refer to if someone wants to relate to what cramps feel like.

Menstrual cramps happen in every period cycle, and throughout your period cycle, these period cramps can also change, and this is a very natural thing to happen.

When cramping starts, it sometimes makes the leg shaky, or you can say there is a shakiness in the body, especially in the lower body, including the lower abdomen, thighs, and legs, so we can say that period cramps feel like a shakiness in the legs. That is your answer to what do cramps feel like.

Now, if you ask, what do cramps feel like is it just shakiness? The answer is no, not just shakiness; there is a lot more about what cramps feel like. To know more, read till the end.

As mentioned earlier about shakiness, some people might not feel shakiness in their lower body parts; rather, they can face something else like paralyzation.

2. Paralyzation or Numbness

The feeling of temporary paralyzation or numbness can be relatable for many and if someone wants to know more about what cramps feel like, read out this portion.

When bleeding begins, some people might feel weakness in their knees and can have these feelings of legs getting paralyzed or a sudden sense of numbness that also might feel like losing all the strength from the legs.

Though this feeling ends after a certain time, this numbness can be very severe at certain times and very annoying simultaneously.

3. Intense Abdomen Pain

If one is facing intense abdomen pain, they might feel a churning feeling in the lower abdomen, also known as uterus contracts, which often leads to period pain and is known as period cramps.

Along with these, some women had complained of tiredness. In case of tiredness, no matter what you do feel good, you might feel heavy and constant tiredness due to periods.

Nausea, vomiting, loose stool or diarrhea, headache, and dizziness are also some of the period symptoms that often happen to women; medication may help in controlling these symptoms.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. How can I reduce period pain?

Since heat helps relax the muscles that cause cramping, providing heat to the stomach or back via a heating pad can help ease your pain.

2. What kind of pain do periods cause?

Period pain shows up as cramps in the pelvic region, pain in the abdomen, lower back, and legs, or as a constant ache.

3. Is period pain good or bad?

For a few women, the pain is simply irritating, but cramps during the period can be strong enough for some women to cause problems with their everyday tasks each month.

What do Cramps Feel Like: In a Nutshell

So in this article on what do cramps feel like, we learned that having periods cramps are absolutely fine periods but other than that if there is constant pain in the lower stomach or lower abdomen, then this might be a thing of concern.

Though period cramps feel extremely painful enough to hamper everyday activities like school, college, and office, for some, it is discomfort and quite annoying yet bearable.

As medical science has evolved, cramping pain medication/ treatment is available, eating certain foods and doing certain yoga specifically, yoga poses help in cramp relief and might reduce pain in some. Butterfly yoga is one such exercise that can help in cramp relief.

So, next time someone asks you what do cramps feel like and if are they that bad, share this article with them.

Now that you have an idea of what do cramps feel like, just a humble request to not try and downplay it in front of a woman next time. Stay safe and healthy!

  1. Ruble, Diane N. “Premenstrual symptoms: A reinterpretation.” Science 197.4300 (1977): 291-292. ↩︎
  2. Montine, T. J., et al. “Elevated CSF prostaglandin E2 levels in patients with probable AD.” Neurology 53.7 (1999): 1495-1495. ↩︎
  3. Eskenazi, Brenda, and Marcella L. Warner. “Epidemiology of endometriosis.” Obstetrics and gynecology clinics of North America 24.2 (1997): 235-258. ↩︎
  4. Brunham, Robert C., Sami L. Gottlieb, and Jorma Paavonen. “Pelvic inflammatory disease.” New England Journal of Medicine 372.21 (2015): 2039-2048. ↩︎

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Snehareema Roy

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