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Menstrual cramps are why people with periods face trouble doing normal activities. The regular upset stomach and lower back pain make cramps worse. Due to these difficulties, we often find it difficult to know what to take for cramps, but with time, there are many things you can do to get rid of them.
What to Take for Cramps?
1. Anti-Inflammatory Medicines
Apart from pain relievers for issues like headaches and body pain, you can also get medicines to reduce menstrual cramps OTC.
Some names are naproxen (Aleve), ketoprofen, ibuprofen (Motrin IB, Advil) and acetaminophen (Tylenol). If you experience severe menstrual cramps, your doctor might prescribe anti-inflammatory drugs like Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).
You should always consult a doctor before using these as some can harm you if you have asthma, aspirin allergy, or other medical conditions. They can also affect your stomach and cause kidney problems like reflux or ulcers, so you should take medicine with a meal.
The medicines relieve prostaglandins in our body- a hormone that leads to contractions of muscles, and hence the people who menstruate get cramps.
Advil and Aleve are also NSAIDs, and Tylenol might help with painful menstrual cramps, but it does not address the inflammation that is the real cause of period cramps. Some other pain relievers like Midol can also help, but because they are for other symptoms too, they have active ingredients and are not NSAIDs all the time.
Because you can buy these medicines without a doctor’s consultation, you should only start taking them when you feel pain and then continue until the symptoms are gone.
The instructions for the medicines are given on the box and you can follow them easily to relieve menstrual cramps.
The most effective and easy way to relieve painful menstrual cramps is to apply heat. You can use a heating pad or heat patch. You can put it in the pelvic area, lower belly, lower abdomen or back.
The heating pad helps in relaxing our muscles, better blood flow and reduces tension. This method helps in reducing menstrual pain as much as taking ibuprofen except that this is better as there are no side effects.
Heating patches are the perfect go-to if you need to be somewhere as they are easy to carry compared to a hot water bottle. The important part of this method is to apply heat continuously to reduce painful cramps.
Other than a hot pad, you can take a hot bath or a warm bath too.
Menstrual pain is both physically and mentally exhausting. People who menstruate prefer less to no physical activity. But working out and exercising is one of the best methods to get relief from period pain.
If you missed your workout before periods, now is the best time to start again. Due to exercise, our body releases endorphins. It blocks your body’s perception of pain.
Exercise includes everything from yoga, aerobics, light stretching, running, bike riding, swimming, and walking to anything that can get your heart rate up.
It helps to reduce stress (another major reason to counter period cramps), and relaxes muscles and hence the menstrual cramps. Experts also recommend exercising more during Premenstrual Syndrome to limit the severe pain.
The ideal time to exercise varies for everybody which is fair but 30 minutes a day is just perfect.
4. Sexual Intercourse
Body movements lead to the release of endorphins which helps in reducing menstrual pain. The movement should lead to a high heart rate and sexual intercourse is a method to achieve that.
5. Birth Control
Another known method to reduce menstrual pain is hormonal birth control. You might want to resort to this idea only after talking with your doctor.
If you’re wondering what to take for cramps, birth control helps your body by proving hormones that help to relieve or end period cramps. You can use it during PMS as well. You can reduce menstrual pain or end it together with hormonal birth control.
Birth control options include injections, pills, an intrauterine device, ring, implant, a transdermal patch and a hormone-containing IUD making it easy for us to choose any means.
Consulting your doctor is inexcusable as you might have a medical history and this can cause long-term harm.
It is only used in cases of cramps due to hormone imbalance. With estrogen and progesterone balance, the uterine lining gets shed easily and you feel fewer cramps.
There are varied causes of period cramps like fibroids, ovarian cysts, endometriosis or polyps. For all these different causes, there are surgeries available which will automatically cure the pain of cramps.
If you want to remove the uterus, D&C can be used if you have uterine polyps and hysterectomy.
To remove the uterus lining which causes bleeding and cramps, you can have endometrial ablation. This surgery is often used to treat people who menstruate when the lining of their uterus grows outside also called endometriosis.
Similarly, laparoscopy surgery is used to treat ovarian cysts or pelvic endometriosis.
You should always get plenty of rest during menstruation. It helps to calm the body and reduces pain as there’s less unnecessary movement.
During menstruation, you should have a healthy sleeping routine. Sleeping at the same time every day and taking quality naps helps with stress, mood changes, tiredness, fatigue and many other symptoms of periods or even PMS.
8. Less Stress
Stress often starts during PMS and is a major source of our pain. The causes are varied, and managing it can be a difficult task given the daily lifestyle. In this case, you can try to use various stress relief techniques. It can range from meditation, yoga, or deep breathing.
It depends on how they relieve stress, but if you don’t know yours or have just started, you can try guided imagery. In this method, you can simply close your eyes, take a deep breath and imagine a space that feels calm and safe to you.
The focus on the space should be for a few minutes, which you can increase with practice. During the focus, you simply have to take slowly and deeply breathe.
9. Alternative Medicines
Everything from therapy to eating habits comes under alternative medicines. Regular medicines have side effects and don’t suit everybody, and so with time, there have been a few other options explored and found to be useful by people in their quest of what to take for cramps since these don’t harm you.
In case of health issues, people find all other doors of relieving menstrual cramps closed, but you can choose alternative therapies as they involve no harm.
You can try different therapies or as called alternative medicine. You can try acupuncture (a Chinese practice where needles are pierced into the body), acupressure (pressure applied on certain points of the body), or using a TENS unit (it is an electrical device that blocks the pain signals on its way to convey it to the brain).
9.2 Massage Therapy
It is commonly known that massage therapy reduces period pain with endometriosis. Massage therapy helps the uterus to relax by reducing uterine spasms.
It works best when the massage is centered in the abdomen area. Other than this, any sort of massage helps reduce the pain, especially the stress, which is also a major part of period cramps.
It is difficult not to munch on snacks and unhealthy food during menstruation. The cravings or simply munching are a result of mood swings mainly. But this habit and moods have to be stopped if you want to reduce your pain.
Healthy food is what to take for cramps as it helps our body to reduce it but there is a limit to what healthy food too. A low-fat vegetarian diet is an answer to healthy food to consume during painful periods.
You can consume whole grains, yoghurt, fish oil, vitamin B1, magnesium, herbal teas, pycnogenol, fenugreek, zinc sulfate, valerian, ginger, have thiamine (found in unrefined cereals, liver and beans) almost 100 mg, tea with peppermint oil and almost 1200 mg Calcium daily during period.
Unlike the list of healthy, the list of unhealthy food is long but there are a few things you should avoid at all costs. It includes caffeine, salt, alcohol, fat and most importantly sugar.
9.4 Drinking Water
What to take for cramps? Water is the only best answer. By drinking more water, you can reduce bloating. Bloating is uncomfortable and worsens the period cramps, but with hydration, it can be reduced. Hydration also helps with keeping your body healthy overall example, your kidneys.
On top of this, if you drink hot water, it will help in increasing the blood flow and relaxing the muscles which in turn will help in reducing the cramps.
9.5 Herbal Tea
As mentioned above, herbal teas are healthy and helpful in period pain. Not all but some of these teas have antispasmodic compounds and anti-inflammatory properties. Both of these help with reducing uterus muscle spasms which cause cramps and reduce inflammation. Besides that, it can also help with insomnia.
Some examples of herbal teas you can consume for the same purpose are ginger, cramp bark, red raspberry leaf, fennel and chamomile.
Tasty as they are, this food help with blood flow, relaxing the uterus and addressing inflammation during the period. You can use tomatoes, berries, pineapples, spices (turmeric, garlic, or ginger), green and leafy vegetables, walnuts, almonds, and salmon.
A low-fat vegetarian diet goes a long way too and is not just an answer to what to take for cramps.
9.7 No Treats
Craving junk food during the period is common and romanticized, but it’s not healthy and should be avoided. The chocolates, cakes, and fries you consume have a high amount of sugar, salt, and trans fat. All of this leads to inflammation and bloating making pain and cramps worse than it already is.
Difficult as it is, you can always start by replacing junk food with healthy options as they are good pain relievers. You include things like bananas or any other sweet fruit or nuts without salt.
Caffeine consumption in any form (milk tea or coffee) leads to narrow blood vessels and constriction of the uterus, making cramps worse.
Not having coffee daily is difficult for people to imagine, let alone avoid for a week. So if you need coffee for your addiction, try switching to decaf during the period. To avoid sleep or low energy when working, try having a high-protein snack or a walk to cool off.
9.9 Dietary Supplements
Supplements are the best method in case you’re wondering what to take for cramps. Some recommended supplements to reduce pain include Vitamin D (it helps your body in reducing inflammation by absorbing calcium), omega-3, magnesium, and certain vitamins like vitamin E and vitamin B1.
You should take supplements every day rather than during periods only. Some of these and other supplements can be harmful given that you may have health problems so you should consult your doctor before starting any new supplements.