Ever wonder how to get rid of period cramps? I know. It might seem strange that, as a man, I’m offering advice on how to combat painful periods. But with so many women suffering from painful PMS symptoms each month, it’s a topic I’ve wanted to tackle for some time now.
What Are Period Cramps?
Most women have experienced dysmenorrhea, or period cramps, at some time. It tends to happen just before and during the menstrual cycle. What does it feel like to have period cramps? It’s often described as a cramping or constant ache in the lower belly and lower back back. The intensity varies; some women don’t experience cramps or they’re very mild, while for other women, it can be painful enough that normal day-to-day activities are affected.
What causes period cramps? During menstruation, the uterus contracts as it gets rid of the lining — that’s what the blood is. The contractions are what cause the cramping. That’s normal cramping, anyway. Other conditions, like endometriosis and adenomyosis, can also trigger period cramps.
What relieves period cramps fast? This also depends on the woman. Over-the-counter medications can help, as can birth control pills (but the latter come with their own potentially serious side effects and issues). Warm compresses applied directly on the abdomen can help. But ultimately, many women just wind up grimacing and bearing the pain each month.
How to Get Rid of Period Cramps Naturally
A lot of women have their own ways of dealing with tough menstruation cycles and PMS symptoms, from tips handed down by mom to turning to medications. And if those work for you — awesome!
But if you’re looking for some new, natural ways to combat that painful time of the month, then this is the list for you. From essential oils and Epsom salts to fish oil and your favorite tunes, these methods for how to get rid of period cramps will help ease period pain so you can live your best life all month long.
1. Try acupuncture.
When you’re in pain, the idea of getting pricked by needles probably doesn’t sound too appealing. But acupuncture, a type of Traditional Chinese Medicine, has been used for more than 2,000 years to treat chronic pain and can be especially effective during a hard-to-handle menstrual cycle. In fact, one small study out of Australia and New Zealand found that acupuncture treatment can ease period pain, including secondary symptoms like headaches and nausea, in women. (1)
The pilot study of women ages 18 to 45 years old had them undergoing one of four types of manual or electro-acupuncture treatments over three menstrual cycles. Half of the women experienced at least a 50 percent reduction in the severity of their symptoms over three months of being treated with acupuncture and reported they were able to use fewer painkillers to treat pain.
What’s more, the improvements lasted for up to a year after treatment and provided improvements in other areas of their life, including their overall vitality and bodily pain. Interestingly, the researchers discovered that manual acupuncture, where thin needles are inserted into certain parts of the body, was more effective at pain relief than electro-acupuncture, where a small electrical current passes through a needle.
2. Take a hot bath with Epsom salts.
What is good for period cramps? Epsom salts! Seriously, is there anything Epsom salts aren’t good for? For a low-cost, relaxing option to help lessen period pains, bathing in a hot bath with Epsom salts can provide relief. If you’re an athlete, you may already be familiar with Epsom salt baths to treat muscle pain and, when it comes to your period, the effects are similar. Hot water can provide comforting relief and boost blood circulation, which helps with period cramps.
Adding Epsom salts to the tub provides a double whammy, as the magnesium in Epsom salts reduces inflammation and soothes pain. Try taking a detox bath during your next period to help pain, de-stress and release toxins.
3. Get a dose of extra-virgin olive oil.
Here’s one more reason to keep a bottle of EVOO in your kitchen; during your period, it might help fight painful symptoms even better than medication. In a 2015 study, 60 female students who suffered from moderate to severe menstrual cramps were separated into two groups. (2) The women were all between the ages of 17 and 30 and received one of two pain treatments over the course of four menstruation cycles: either 25 mL, or 5 teaspoons, of extra virgin olive oil daily for two months, starting two weeks before the start of their cycle, and then 400 milligrams of ibuprofen three times a day in the first three days of their next two menstrual cycles, when pain is most heightened.
The second group was essentially the same, except the women received the ibuprofen for the first two months and the extra virgin olive oil in the last two months. In both cases, the pain was significantly reduced for the women in the olive oil group and, as they continued taking the EVOO, their pain continued declining. This is likely because extra virgin olive oil is a powerful anti-inflammatory. If you’re wondering how to get rid of period cramps with olive oil, it’s easy. Try it with your salad or, as the researchers suggested, as a food supplement.
4. Try fish oil supplements.
When it comes to figuring out how to get rid of period cramps, those omega-3 fatty acids strike again. These acids are essential to our health, but our bodies can’t produce them, so we either need to get them from our diet or supplement when we’re lacking, through things like fish oil. And if you suffer from menstrual pain, you’re in luck; fish oil supplements can help alleviate the discomfort.
One small study found that women who received a 1,000 milligram fish oil capsule during their period had less intense period pains than the group who took ibuprofen when their pain started. (3) Additionally, those women who took fish oil had more of their pain reduced than the ones who stuck to the ibuprofen.
Fish oil has been found to work just as effectively as NSAIDs for arthritis pain, so it’s not a stretch to imagine they’d be able to ease other types of pain as well. (4)
5. Get more sleep.
It’s not your imagination: You may be more tired during your period. Hormonal changes during your cycle are to blame and, according to the National Sleep Foundation, 30 percent of women experience disturbed sleep during their periods because of issues like cramps and pain, headaches, bloating and anxiety. (5)
So what do you do when all you want is to crawl in bed and sleep for period cramp relief, but you find yourself counting sheep instead? If you know that you regularly have trouble sleeping during your cycle, you can take steps ahead of time to prepare. Your body temperature can rise over the course of your cycle, so make sure your room is cool enough to make sleeping comfortable.
If anxiety or depression brought on by your period is making it difficult to unwind, try meditation, journaling or reading in bed — skip the electronics though, which can tell your brain it’s time to stay awake. Using a heating pad or rearranging pillows around your back can help with period pain while in bed, too. If you still can’t sleep, try giving these 20 tips to sleep better a whirl.
6. Practice yoga nidra (or your favorite gentle yoga).
When you’re figuring out how to get rid of period cramps, an ancient yoga practice may be just what you need. During your period, just getting out of bed can feel like an achievement, and getting in a workout is out of the question. But you might not want to write off yoga class just yet.
Yoga nidra, a super relaxing type of yoga, may be just what you needed. Yoga nidra is done entirely in savasana (aka lying down) and incorporates guided meditation. There’s no “wrong” way to do it and, because it’s guided, there’s less frustration about clearing your mind. It also can help with period symptoms.
One study of 150 women with abnormal periods — including things like severe pain, infrequent cycles and more — found that women who took meds and practiced yoga nidra, for 35 to 40 minutes, five days a week, had less painful cramps and period irregularities, along with a decrease in anxiety and depression, than the women who just stuck to the meds. (6) It’s likely that yoga nidra’s ability to put you in relaxation mode is the reason it’s so effective: when that happens, your breathing slows and you consume less oxygen. If your local studio doesn’t offer yoga nidra, even lying in bed with a meditation app going can help. (7)
If you prefer going to the studio, it’s best to skip vigorous vinyasa classes if you’re wondering how to stop period cramps, says tantra yogi Michele D’Agostino, instructor of kinesiology at Penn State University’s Schuylkill campus. Instead, focus on more readily available relaxation practices, like yin or restorative, or, of course, yoga nidra.
7. Wrap yourself in kinesiology tape.
You may have seen runners with brightly colored tape around their calves or thighs. It’s not a new fashion statement, it’s kinesiology tape, used to alleviate aches and pain through a workout by increasing circulation and improving range of motion. Kinesiology tape’s benefits aren’t just for athletes though. A 2017 study suggests that using kinesiology tape around your pelvis before and during your period can relieve cramps and other menstrual pain by eliminating muscle tension in the area. (8)
Try it by grabbing a roll of kinesiology tape at any sports retailer and cutting off two pieces, then applying them horizontally and vertically in the pelvic region, focusing on where you have the most pain.
8. Have an orgasm — with or without a partner.
Some women find that they’re more easily turned on in the bedroom during their period than at other times. That could be because progesterone, a hormone that’s linked to a lower libido, is at its lowest point during this time. That quality time between the sheets — with a lover or yourself — could actually help you feel better. Say what?
Aside from the fact that sex just feels good, there are a few other things at play. Masturbating and sex increase blood flow, which can ease any period pains you’re having. Vaginal stimulation also increases a woman’s pain tolerance; research found that “vaginal self-stimulation more than doubled [the] women’s pain thresholds.” (9) Finally, sex can leave you feeling less anxious and relaxed — just what the doctor ordered at that time of the month.
9. Turn to essential oils.
Not only do essential oils smell great, but they’re awesome at helping you figure out how to get rid of period cramps naturally. During your period, adding certain essential oils to your lifestyle can be really helpful. In my opinion, these are some of the best for women to turn to during menstruation…
Cardamom: An anti-inflammatory oil, cardamom has been shown to protect mice from pain. It can also lessen muscle pain and cramps. During your period, apply 3 to 4 drops onto your abdomen to relieve discomfort.
Cumin: This oil is super versatile and while you may be more used to cumin as a spice, it’s excellent during your period. It has anti-spasmodic properties, which can take the sting out of the cramps and pain that come with your period. Place three drops on your abdomen or wherever you’re in pain.
Fennel: This anti-spasmodic oil may actually reduce uterine contraction frequency and intensity — goodbye, cramps. Add 1 to 2 drops of fennel essential oil to a cup of tea or water, or apply 3 to 4 drops to your abdomen to support healthy menstruation.
Rose: This delicious-smelling anti-spasmodic oil can lessen cramps while also helping you feel less moody and anxious during your cycle. The best way to use rose oil is to apply 3 to 4 drops right on your abdomen or add the oil to a diffuser to breathe in all its goodness.
10. Add herbs to your diet.
Herbs can be a terrific menstrual cramps remedy. Here are some that I suggest to help with period cramps relief.
Vitex/chasteberry: This fruit produces an herb that’s great for both PMS and period cramps. It works by helping to balance hormones, possibly lessening symptoms. An added bonus is that if your period cramps are caused by uterine fibroids, vitex helps balance the ratio of estrogen to progesterone, which can reduce and prevent fibroids from appearing. Vitex is available both in tablets and as a liquid extract.
Bupleurum: Often used in Traditional Chinese Medicine, bupleurum is often used to cleanse the liver, but if you’re wondering how to get rid of period symptoms, it’s very useful as well. If you tend to feel depressed around your period, bepleurum can be a natural solution. When used in herbal formulas like Chai hu shu gan san, bepleurum helps relieve liver stagnation which, in Chinese medicine, is what leads to depression. (10)
Dong quai: Another herb prominent in Chinese medicine, dong quai can be useful in reducing period cramps. It’s an antispasmodic, so reduce the intensity of cramps. It’s found in most pharmacies and health stores as a capsule, but you may prefer a liquid version or as a tea.
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