Menstrual Cramps

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Menstrual cramps facts

  • Menstrual cramps are periodic abdominal and pelvic pains experienced by women.
  • More than half of all menstruating women have cramps.
  • The cramps are severe in at least one in seven of these women.
  • Medically, menstrual cramps are called dysmenorrhea.
  • Primary dysmenorrhea is common menstrual cramps without an identifiable cause.
  • Secondary dysmenorrhea results from an underlying abnormality that usually involves the woman's reproductive system.
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are commonly used to treat cramps.
  • Physical exercise can help alleviate menstrual cramps.
  • Menstrual cramps tend to improve with age.

What are menstrual cramps?

Menstrual cramps are pains in the abdomen and pelvic areas that can be experienced by a woman as a result of her menstrual period. Menstrual cramps are not the same as the discomfort felt duringpremenstrual syndrome (PMS), although the symptoms of both disorders can sometimes be experienced as a continuous process. Many women suffer from both PMS and menstrual cramps.

Menstrual cramps can range from mild to quite severe. Mild menstrual cramps may be barely noticeable and of short duration. They are sometimes felt as just a sense of heaviness in the abdomen. Severe menstrual cramps can be so painful that they interfere with a woman's normal activities for several days.

How common are menstrual cramps?

Menstrual cramps of some degree affect an estimated 50% of women, and among these, up to 15% would describe their menstrual cramps as severe. Surveys of adolescent girls show that over 90% report having menstrual cramps.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 11/3/2015

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Menstrual Cramps - Effective Treatments Question: What kinds of treatments have been effective for your menstrual cramps?
Menstrual Cramps - Experiences Question: How often do you experience menstrual cramps?
Menstrual Cramps - Other Causes Question: Do foods, stress, daily activities or other factors worsen menstrual cramps? How do you manage and treat these other causes or triggers?
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Menstrual Cramps - Adolescent Girls Question: If you are under age 18, describe your experience with menstrual cramps.