Menstrual Cramps and Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) Medication Guide

  • Medical Author:
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

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Quick GuidePremenstrual Syndrome: A Visual Guide to PMS Symptoms, Causes and Treatments

Premenstrual Syndrome: A Visual Guide to PMS Symptoms, Causes and Treatments

Menstrual cramps and PMS medication facts

What are menstrual cramps?

Menstrual cramps are abdominal and pelvic pains experienced by a woman around the time of her menstrual period. Menstrual cramps usually start shortly before the menstrual period, peak within 24 hours after their onset, and subside after a day or two.

Menstrual cramps can range from mild to severe. Mild menstrual cramps may be barely noticeable and short-lived, and they are sometimes felt only as a sense of mild pressure in the abdomen and pelvis. Severe menstrual cramps can be so painful that they interfere with a woman's regular activities for several days. The discomfort can extend to the lower back or legs. Menstrual cramps are not the same as the symptoms experienced due to premenstrual syndrome (PMS), although the symptoms of both disorders can sometimes be experienced together. Many women suffer from both PMS and menstrual cramps.

Medical research of menstrual cramps has shown that they are often worse in women who began menstruating early and who have long menstrual periods with heavy menstrual flow. Smoking and a family history of severe menstrual cramps are also associated with severe dysmenorrhea.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 11/23/2015

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