How to Get Rid of Period Cramps

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That time of the month is never any fun, especially if it comes with painful and debilitating cramps. Fortunately, there are many different things you can try to relieve cramping. And while there's probably nothing you can do to prevent menstrual cramps, you can keep them from being as intense. Here, we've gathered some of the most effective things you can try if your period is giving you more pain than you can deal with.

Use a heating pad for 15-20 minutes.

  1. Place the heating pad on your tummy or lower back to ease cramps. Heat also improves blood flow, which can help with cramping. For some people, heat is even more effective than an over-the-counter pain reliever.
    • You can also soak in a hot bath, which can be relaxing for your body and your mind.

Lie on your side to relieve back pressure.

  1. Put on comfy clothing and lie on your side with your knees pulled up. This works well to relieve pressure on your lower back, which can be intense when you're having cramps. You might put a pillow between your knees as well.
    • Lying on your back with a pillow under your knees can also help. For a bonus, put a heating pad on your abdomen or cover yourself with a weighted blanket.

Take an over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medicine.

  1. Use ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB) or naproxen sodium (Aleve). For best results, start taking a regular dose the day before you anticipate cramping will start. Having a base level of the drug in your symptom helps them work better. Keep taking a regular dose throughout your period following the instructions on the label.
    • If you don't get enough pain relief, talk to your doctor. They might approve a larger dose or prescribe a stronger pain medication that will work better for you.

Drink more water.

  1. Getting plenty of fluids can ease cramps and bloating. As your period draws near, you're more likely to retain water (bloating), which in and of itself can be painful. Simply drinking more water can reduce the severity of your cramps and might even shorten your period.
    • People who drink at least 1600 mL (about 54 ounces) of water a day before and during their periods are less likely to need anti-inflammatory drugs to reduce the pain from cramps.

Try herbal tea to reduce muscle spasms.

  1. Chamomile tea eases mental stress and calms tense muscles. You can find this herbal tea at any grocery store. A cup before going to bed will help relax you and can improve your sleep quality as well.
    • You might also try rooibos tea, which can improve circulation, or peppermint tea, which soothes constipation.

Breathe deeply to relax your body.

  1. Deep breathing exercises can reduce the intensity of cramps. For an easy breathing exercise, sit in a comfortable position and turn your thoughts to your breath. Inhale slowly through your nose, imagining your lungs filling with air from the bottom to the top. Pause, then exhale through your mouth, releasing the air just as slowly as you brought it in. Repeat for 5-10 breath cycles.
    • There are many yoga poses that practitioners recommend for easing period cramps as well. An online search will bring up plenty of videos you can follow that are suitable for beginners.

Try massage, acupuncture, or acupressure treatment.

  1. These alternative therapies reduce cramps for many people. While these alternative therapies aren't government-regulated and haven't been studied extensively, they are considered safe. If you've tried other remedies and weren't happy with the results, they're worth a try!
    • You might also try physical therapy that aims to reduce pressure at certain trigger points associated with menstrual cramps. Nerve stimulation therapy can also help.
    • Keep in mind that many of these alternative therapies can be costly and they typically aren't covered by health insurance.

Exercise regularly to reduce cramping.

  1. Cardiovascular exercise improves blood flow to make cramping less intense. Make exercise a part of your routine, aiming for 20-30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise on most days of the week. This can be as simple as going for a walk! Choose an activity you enjoy so you'll be motivated to get out there and do it.
    • During PMS, exercise is also helpful—if you can get yourself moving. Sometimes you might not feel up to it, but if you can manage even a short walk, it'll get those endorphins pumping and you might find you start to feel a little better.

Eat anti-inflammatory foods to promote blood flow.

  1. Fruits, vegetables, and whole grains help cramping over time. This won't help you much if you only do this when your cramps set in—this is a lifestyle change. Make adjustments gradually, replacing refined grains like white bread and pasta with whole grains and eliminating processed and fried foods.
    • You don't necessarily have to go full vegan, but you might also notice less cramping if you avoid animal products entirely, especially meat and dairy.
    • This is an easier change to make if you get your family and friends involved—it's hard to change your way of eating on your own. Make the change slowly, eliminating one food at a time over the course of several weeks.
    • Talk to your doctor or work with a nutritionist to come up with food options that will leave you feeling full and provide you with the nutrition you need.

Avoid caffeine and sugar.

  1. Sugar and caffeine make period cramps worse. When you're in the throes of PMS, nothing sounds better than chocolate. Unfortunately, it can do you more harm than good. Reach for a decaf coffee if you must, or have a small piece of dark chocolate.
    • If you're having a hard time with sugar cravings, try a cup of hibiscus tea, which can help naturally calm the urge for something sweet.

Try dietary supplements to reduce cramping.

  1. Studies show omega-3 and magnesium supplements might ease cramps. Vitamins E, B-1 (thiamin), and B-6 also help some people reduce the intensity of their cramps. Talk to your doctor before taking any nutritional supplements, especially if you're taking medication for other conditions.
    • Like changing your diet, supplements are more of a lifestyle change. If you only take these supplements during your period, you likely won't notice much effect. However, if you take them for a month or two, you might start to see a difference.

Talk to your doctor about birth control.

  1. Hormonal birth control helps treat painful periods. Birth control methods that contain estrogen and progestin, such as the pill, the patch, or the vaginal ring, tend to work best. However, methods that only contain progestin might also work.
    • You can also get a hormonal intrauterine device (IUD) implanted to help with menstrual cramps. The IUD frequently results in a lighter menstrual flow, which makes the whole experience less intense. Over time, you might even stop bleeding completely.

Get medical help if other remedies don't help.

  1. Severe cramps might be a sign of something more serious. If your period pain is so bad that it's hard for you to do everyday activities, or if nothing seems to make it better, make an appointment with a gynecologist. Tell them about your menstrual history, your lifestyle, and any drugs you're taking for other medical conditions. All of this information will help them figure out what might be making your cramps so bad and what they can do to help. Possibilities include:
    • Pelvic inflammatory disease: an infection of your reproductive organs
    • Endometriosis: the lining of your uterus grows outside your uterus, leading to severe pain
    • Adenomyosis: your uterine lining grows into the muscle wall of your uterus
    • Uterine fibroids: non-cancerous growths that cause severe cramping unless removed

Tips

  • Get plenty of rest, both before and during your period. Having a regular sleep schedule can help reduce your feelings of fatigue.
  • Keep track of your periods so you'll know when to anticipate them. If you start some of these remedies in advance, they'll be more effective. There are several free smartphone apps you can use for this!

Warnings

  • If you have severe cramps that don't respond to any basic treatments, contact your doctor as soon as possible. Your cramps might be a symptom of a more serious underlying condition.
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