Period pain (dysmenorrhoea) is lower abdominal pain experienced during a menstrual period.
Period pain is very common with some studies indicating that approximately 75 percent of young women and 25 to 50 percent of adult women experience pain and discomfort during their period. For up to 20 percent of women, Period pain interferes significantly with everyday life.
The Period pain most women experience is only a side effect of the body's natural menstrual process. Most period pain is not the result of any underlying medical condition. This normal menstruation that happens to be painful is known as primary dysmenorrhoea.
Period pain occurs when the muscular wall of the womb (uterus) contracts to dispel the thickened lining. In primary dysmenorrhoea, it is thought that this muscular contraction is stronger than normal. These contractions may also hamper blood flow to the uterus, exacerbating the pain. Some women find that periods are less painful after pregnancy and childbirth.
Secondary dysmenorrhoea is less common and refers to period pain caused by an underlying condition affecting the uterus such as endometriosis, fibroids, pelvic inflammatory disease etc. Secondary dysmenorrhoea usually causes a change in the intensity and/or duration of your normal pattern of pain. For example, you may find your period pain has significantly increased, or that it lasts for much longer than normal. If you have secondary dysmenorrhoea, you may also experience other symptoms, such as:
• Irregular periods,
• Bleeding in-between periods,
• Thick or foul-smelling vaginal discharge, and
• Pain during sex.
SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS
The main symptom of period pain is painful muscle cramps in your lower abdomen. Period pain can sometimes spread to your lower back and your thighs. You may also notice that the pain you experience varies with each period. Some periods may cause you little or no discomfort, while others may be far more painful. Typically, the pain commences on or before the start of the menstrual period and the first 24 hours are usually the most painful.
As well as experiencing pain in your abdomen, you may also experience a number of other symptoms, such as:
• Feeling faint
• Dizziness and
• Digestive upsets, such as diarrhoea or constipation.
As with all medical conditions it is advisable to consult your Doctor for an accurate diagnosis and treatment. Most cases of period pain can be managed at home. There are a number of medicines you can purchase over the counter (OTC) to help manage your pain. Your Doctor will diagnose and treat any underlying problems that may be causing secondary dysmenorrhoea. For cases of primary dysmenorrhoea, the following suggestions may help to reduce the severity of the pain:
• Exercise - regular exercise and attention to overall physical fitness may help to manage period pain. Try some gentle swimming, walking or cycling.
• Heat - applying heat to your abdomen with a heat pad or hot water bottle can help to ease your pain.
• Warm bath, or shower - taking a bath or shower can helps to relieve the pain, while also helping you to relax.
• Massage - light circular massage around your lower abdomen may help.
• Relaxation techniques - you might want to try a relaxing activity, such as yoga or pilates, to help distract you from feelings of pain and discomfort.
• Transcutaneous electronic nerve stimulation (TENS) - a TENS machine works by releasing small electrical impulses through sticky pads (electrodes) that are placed on your skin. This stimulates the nerves in your pelvic area, helping to block pain.
• Oral contraceptive pill - if you need contraception, as well as relief from period pain, your doctor may prescribe you a combined oral contraceptive pill.
1. Ask your MedAux Pharmacist for advice about painkillers and anti-inflammatory medicines for the management of Period pain.
2. Heat packs and hot water bottles are available from your Pharmacy.
3. Rest as much as possible, particularly on the first day of your period. Light exercise, may also be helpful when exertion is possible.
4. Some nutritional supplements may be suggested if the diet is inadequate. See the Dysmenorrhoea - Supplements topic for more information.
Aspirin should not be given to children under 16 years of age unless specified by a Doctor.