Menstrual Cramps
and
Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) Medication Guide

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Menstrual cramps and PMS medication facts

  • Menstrual cramps that occur in the absence of a known abnormality or cause are medically referred to as primary dysmenorrhea.
  • Non-drug treatments for menstrual cramps include adequate rest and sleep, regular exercise (especially walking), and smoking cessation.
  • 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.
  • Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) is a combination of emotional, physical, psychological, and mood disturbances that occur after a woman's ovulation; and usually end with the onset of her menstrual flow.
  • For moderate menstrual cramps, the nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs, such as ibuprofen [Advil, Motrin, Nuprin, etc.] or naproxen [Aleve, Anaprox, Naprosyn, Naprelan]) are often helpful. The NSAIDs are more effective than aspirin in inhibiting the production and action of the prostaglandins that cause menstrual cramps.

What are menstrual cramps?

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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, sometimes felt just as a sense of light heaviness in the belly. 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 painful menstrual cramps.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 7/17/2014

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Menstrual Cramps and PMS - Symptoms Question: Describe your symptoms associated with premenstrual syndrome (PMS).
Menstrual Cramps and PMS - Treatments Question: What kinds of treatment, including lifestyle changes, have helped you deal with PMS?
Menstrual Cramps and PMS - Experiences Question: At what age did you start to get cramps? Describe your history and experience with menstrual cramps.
Menstrual Cramps and PMS - Medication Question: What medications have you tried for menstrual cramps? What works, and what doesn't?