The word period can mean a lot of things. For half the world’s population, it measures time or ends a sentence. For the other half, however, it means an almost never-ending cycle of blood and emotion. You can, at one moment, be crying over the latest episode of that drama you were watching, then be screaming at the top of your lungs over the smallest inconvenience the next. It’s definitely not something any of us can control, and it’s simply our bodies’ natural way of telling us that it’s angry we’re not having kids. No matter how much we want to relieve ourselves of this pain and agony, we have no choice but deal with menstrual cramps.
Not all periods are created equal, either. While there are some that can breeze through their monthly cycles with minimal difficulty, there are cases where the cramps get so bad that they are unable to move throughout the day. You then contemplate, “Should I take a sick leave? Do I still have sick leaves? There should sick leaves reserved for periods.” A lot of thoughts can be swirling in our heads, but in all these situations, the same question gets asked time and time again: how do we relieve menstrual cramps?
There are many different options out there in the market; and ranging from your grandmother’s advice, your aunt’s “foolproof” natural remedies, or to medication, not all solutions work on everybody. There can be cases where the natural methods work more than medicine, or vice versa. The best advice would be to try a bit of everything, see what works, what doesn’t and make a list of all the things that do work. That way, you have a go-to list of things to do during that time of the month.
Ways on How to Relieve Menstrual Cramps
1 Hot Compress
Heating up your abdominal area during cramps can help relax the muscles, effectively reducing the pain it causes. These compresses can range from the electric one that you plug into your wall socket or the ones with the silicon balls that you can microwave. Whatever your preference works, as long as you can heat up the area for at least 30 minutes to an hour.
If preferred, you can also take a painkiller before you heat up your belly. Studies have reported that it gives faster relief to those with intense period cramps. It definitely beats having to limp all day or having crippling pain.
2 Stretching and Exercise
We know that movement is already constricted enough during a cramp, but when the pain isn’t that movement impairing, light stretching actually helps in relieving menstrual cramps. It’s a little like when you’re getting regular cramps, where you stretch out your leg or arm so the muscles relax. What you can do in this case is to lay flat on your belly, and push your body upwards in a reverse C position. This stretches your abdominal muscles and ideally helps lessen the pain.
What also helps is exercise. While this may seem counterproductive at first, light exercise has been shown to ease period cramps, provided of course that the cramps don’t completely inhibit you from moving. That is another way on how to relieve menstrual cramps.
3 Hot Tea
Drinking tea is known to help relieve muscle tension, especially ginger tea, which is known to be a natural remedy to cramping. You’ll need to boil a few pieces of ginger in a pot, then pour its contents into your glass or mug. Don’t forget to strain the ginger out! The amount of ginger depends on how strong you want the tea to be, but the general average is around 1 or 2 pieces.
Other options can also include peppermint tea, but of course, the best type of drink might be different for each person. If neither options help, try consulting a doctor on what might work best for you.
4 Avoid Caffeine
If you’re the type that won’t be able to get through the day without at least downing 3 or 4 cups of coffee, you might want to cut down on your dosage when you’re on your period. Stuff like sodas, energy drinks, and chocolate may contribute more to period pain. As a substitute, however, it’s more advisable to drink anti-oxidant smoothies, berries, or protein powder, although the powder may have to be axed if you have creatinine levels in your body.
5 Get a massage
Most times, period cramps can affect other muscle groups in other parts of the body. By massaging these areas aside from just your abdomen, it can more often than not also help relieve menstrual cramps. Foot reflexology works the same way. By massaging a related area, it could mean better blood flow into the affected part.
The most popular spot would be the lower back, as it directly supports the pelvic area where the uterus is. It’s also possible to massage the abdomen itself; a few minutes of massaging within the day can also help relieve pain.
6 Over-the-counter medications
During times when the pain may get too much, and all the natural remedies might look pretty bleak, there’s no harm in popping a safe painkiller to ease the inflammation a bit. Medicine like ibuprofen, such as Advil, can really help relieve menstrual cramps. Other more specific medications for dysmenorrhea exist and can be bought at your local pharmacy as well, but in those cases, it’s best to consult your physician about which types of medicine are best for your body.
7 Birth Control Pills
For more extreme cases where chronic pain becomes too much and nothing else seems to work, taking regular birth control medication might be a solution. The pills help regulate menstrual cycles and keep it to a minimum. Less days means less menstrual cramps which also means less suffering.
Taking birth control pills can cause a lot of different side effects for different people. You should talk to your doctor about it and weigh your options first before taking this route.
8 Diet Regulation
Another way on how to relieve menstrual cramps in the long run is by reducing the intake of fats, sugar, and salty foods during your period. You may be craving them during that time of the month, but it may end up causing more harm than satisfying the urge. In the event that the craving gets overwhelming, there are other healthier alternatives to curb the craving. For example, if you’re craving something salty, you can instead eat nuts and seeds as a substitute. Cashews are a prime example of this.
In the event that you’re craving chocolate, you can instead eat magnesium-rich foods such as avocados, peanuts, oatmeal, or pumpkin. Changing your diet may prove difficult. However, the long term effects could mean that the cramps will hurt less in the future. It may even be a factor in getting rid of them completely.
Meant for easing nerves and relaxing muscles, acupuncture is a widely recommended solution to relieve intense menstrual cramps. It’s been around for a long time, about over 2,000 years, and has been used as a pain relief method since ancient times. For those unfamiliar with the procedure, hair-thin needles are placed on specific points around whatever area needs to be treated. They aren’t painful, and in fact, are so thin that you don’t even feel them break the skin. A lot of women have reportedly tried acupuncture for their menstrual cramps and felt major improvement. However, studies revolving around them are inconclusive. Nevertheless, it could prove to be something that works for some more than others.
10 Sleep (A lot)
Maintaining a healthy sleep cycle has a big effect on menstrual health, and overall health as well. Sleeping better can help prevent the cramps from getting worse. Stress and in some cases, insomnia can contribute to getting worse menstrual cramps. Try going to bed more consistently at a certain time. Make sure you get at least 6-8 hours of sleep every night. If you’re having trouble sleeping, you can try listening to soft music or taking a hot bath or shower. Maybe you can even read a book to wind down and give your body the signals it needs to sleep. While this is recommended indefinitely to promote better health in general, for the purpose of reducing period cramps, going to bed earlier and more consistently should be done in the days leading to your monthly cycle up until it ends.
You Can Do it, Sis!
While there are many ways to combat menstrual cramps, it’s up to you to decide which methods work best, and which ones don’t have any effect at all. Some methods, like medication, don’t work on certain women, while to some, heating up a hot compress doesn’t work either. It’s best to try things out one at a time, but slowly, so as not to overwhelm your body. Ultimately, however, it’s always a good idea to maintain a healthier lifestyle in general. This is to alleviate the painful cramps that plague your abdomen every month. If you’re already doing that, then maybe it’s best to consult your physician. Maybe they can advise you on how to best relieve yourself of your pesky menstrual cramps.