Dysmenorrhea - Painful Period Cramps

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Dysmenorrhea (dis–men–o–ree–a) is a medical term that means “difficult or painful periods” and is something that many women deal with each month either just before and/or during their period.  Bent over in pain or lying on their bed crying as they attempt to manage their way through it.

Many females do experience mild cramping during that time of the month, but if you are experiencing symptoms that are more elevated, the chances are you are suffering from dysmenorrhea (or possibly another medical condition). 

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms can vary between women and range from mild to severe:

  • Lower back pain

  • Cramping in lower abdominal area

  • Hip and inner thigh pain (can also travel down thighs and calves)

  • Belly bloating

  • Irritability

  • Nausea

  • Vomiting

  • Headaches

  • Fatigue

  • Feeling light headed

  • Diarrhoea 

  • Constipation

  • Fainting

The Two Stages


When it comes to this symptom, there are two stages:

Primary dysmenorrhea:  This is usually starts 1-2 days before a period begins and can last up to 2-4 days during the period.

Secondary dysmenorrhea:  This is when the cramps are a result due to an additional medical issue such as endometriosis (where tissue similar to the lining of the uterus, is found outside the uterus) or Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), etc.


What Causes Dysmenorrhea?

Cramps are usually caused when the uterus contracts to expel the uterine lining, i.e. when your uterus tightens and then relaxes so that blood can leave your uterus. 


Prostaglandins ​(hormone-like substances) are released from the lining of your uterus and can cause the cramps to be more severe. 


Young women and teenagers usually have higher levels of prostaglandins, meaning they experience more pain than women aged 30+.  These high levels of prostaglandins can also cause nausea, diarrhoea and make you feel light headed. 

Those that have heavy or long periods, or have irregular periods usually experience more cramping too.

Tips to Manage Cramping

  • It’s important to look at the foundations, i.e. good quality sleep, bowels working correctly, hydration with water, nutrition and stress management. 

  • Taking magnesium, zinc and B vitamins, vitamin E and D and a good quality fish oil.

  • Yoga and meditation to reduce stress - be aware that coffee and stress also reduces the levels of magnesium.

  • Applying heat to the area like  a wheat pack, hot water bottle or warm towel.

  • Epsom salt bath.

  • Light abdominal massage.


  • Reducing the load on your liver  to reduce inflammation (eating whole foods). 


  • Lying down, doing some deep belly breathing, accepting that the cramps are just part of your period and taking time until they pass.


  • Doing gentle exercise, like going for a walk, stretching, yoga etc.

In Conclusion

Even though having cramps before and during your menstrual cycle is considered to be relatively normal, if you feel that these cramps/pain are preventing you from attending normal duties or going out and about during the day, it is important to see your health care provider to determine if there are any other causes.

Plus, book in for a complimentary 30 minute chat with myself to discuss other option and found out aout othe specialists that may be able to help.

Image by Alexa Suter

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