What do Period Cramps Feel Like- Symptoms, Causes, and Remedies
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During menstruation, prostaglandins trigger the uterus to contract, which further helps the uterus shed its lining. It’s painful, and that’s what period cramps are. Period cramps are the dull throbbing pains before or during the onset of the period. It mostly radiates to the lower back, lower abdomen, or upper thighs. 

For some people, period cramps/ menstrual cramps can be a mild nuisance, but for some, it can be severe enough to interfere with everyday activities before or during the period. 

Menstrual cramps may worsen during the first few days of the period, and the pain may subside afterwards. But if the menstrual cramps continue to worsen throughout the period and it can keep you from school or work, then it’s time for you to speak with your healthcare provider. 

What do Period Cramps feel like?

The uterus contracts and relaxes and causes some pain in the lower abdomen. The way it can feel is as follows:

  • Sharp pain 
  • throbbing/ poking 
  • Tightening like a muscle cramp 
  • Mild stomach ache 

Besides menstrual cramps, people may feel the following:

  • Headaches 
  • Constipation 
  • Loose bowel movements (loose motions)
  • Vomiting 
  • Nausea 

What Causes Menstrual Cramps?

Period cramps are pretty normal during or before the period. However, if the pain gets severe, over-the-counter medicines like ibuprofen help relieve the pain. But if the OTC medicine does not help, there can be underlying causes which are as follows: 

1. PID (Pelvic Inflammatory Disease): 

PID is a bacterial infection in the female reproductive organs caused by an STD (Sexually Transmitted Disease) such as gonorrhoea and chlamydia. PID can be one of the causes of severe menstrual cramps. Pelvic pain is the most common symptom of PID. Besides this symptom, other symptoms are: 

  1. Painful intercourse 
  2. Foul-smelling Vaginal Discharge 
  3. Spotting between periods 
  4. Inflammation during urinating 
  5. Fever 

2. Cervical Stenosis: 

The cervix is the doorway between the vagina and the uterus located at the top of the vagina. In the case of Cervix Stenosis, the cervix is either completely closed or narrow. A person can be born with cervical stenosis.

Cervical stenosis prevents the menstrual blood from exiting the body, making your periods light or irregular. This causes severe menstrual cramps.  

3. Uterine Fibroids: 

Uterine fibroids are the noncancerous growths inside or outside the uterine walls, which causes pain in the affected area. The size may range from a small kernel to a large mass. Often fibroids may occur without symptoms. But the symptoms may depend upon the size or the location of the fibroids. 

Also, Read- Top Energy Boosters to Help Fight Menopause Fatigue!

Besides menstrual cramps, the other causes of uterine fibroids are:

  1. Leg pain
  2. Pelvic pressure 
  3. Lower backache 
  4. Heavy periods 
  5. Constipation 
  6. Increased urination 
  7. Pain during intercourse 

4. Endometriosis: 

A condition that causes the tissue normally lined inside the uterus to form a lining outside the uterus is Endometriosis. It most commonly involves the fallopian tubes, ovaries, bowel, and the tissues lining the pelvis. This disorder causes the following:

  • Menstrual cramps 
  • Excessive bleeding 
  • Pain during intercourse 
  • Painful periods 

Endometriosis may cause fatigue, diarrhoea, constipation, nausea, or painful bowel movements during periods. Sometimes, when people seek infertility treatment, they can be diagnosed with Endometriosis. 

Also, read- Endometriosis After Menopause

5.  PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome) 

PCOS is a common hormone disorder that affects 1 in 10 women of childbearing age. It is a disorder that causes hormonal imbalance and metabolism problems making it troublesome to lose weight and affecting overall appearance. 

Common symptoms of PCOS are irregular periods besides the following:

Besides these causes, severe period cramps are also caused by Adenomyosis, inflammation, etc. To detect the underlying causes of painful menstrual periods, the healthcare provider will likely do a pelvic exam, an ultrasound, a CT Scan, Gynecologic Laparoscopy,  etc. 

What to do to Relieve the Period Cramps: 

Normal period cramps are easier to manage on your own. But in case of severe menstrual cramps, some home remedies may help:

  • Regular Exercises: 

30  minutes of aerobic exercises 3-4 times a week reduces the severity of the menstrual cramps and pains. 

  • Heating Pad: 

A heating pad on the lower abdomen provides you relief from the menstrual cramps. 

  • OTC Medication: 

OTC pain relievers like Ibuprofen help relieve menstrual cramps if the cramps are not as severe. However, taken a day before the menstrual cramps start, OTC medication may be more effective. Besides this medication, NSAIDs also help relieve menstrual cramps and heavy bleeding. 

  • Stress Management: 

Stress has been often linked with menstrual cramps. However, managing the stress with the help of yoga, breathing exercises, light stretching, and doing things that you like to do can help reduce stress. 

  • Quitting Smoke and Alcohol Consumption: 

It has been found that people who smoke and consume alcohol regularly have increased risks of experiencing painful menstrual cramps. 

  • Self-Care 

Self-care methods, including back massage, abdominal massage, exercise, green tea, and staying in bed with a heating pad on the abdomen, can help lessen the period cramps. 

  • Supplements:

Supplements rich in magnesium, Zinc, Vitamin B1, B6, E, D, agnus castus, and fish oil have been researched and found to help lessen menstrual cramps. 

  • Sex and Orgasms 

Sex and Orgasms can help in relieving menstrual cramps. Masturbation, as it has been found in a study, helps with menstrual cramps relief. The pain tolerance goes up owing to the hormones released during sexual excitement. 

Also, Read- Female Masturbation 101: Life is short; touch yourself!

Also, Read- Female Sexual Dysfunction 101: Know Yourself Better

Bottom Line

Normal menstrual cramps during or before the period can be managed independently. However, if the menstrual pain is severe, seek medical advice from your healthcare provider. They will tell you the medication or the treatment plan after detecting the underlying cause of the severe pain.