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 Pictures Slideshow: A Visual Guide to PMS Symptoms, Causes and Treatments

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

What is premenstrual syndrome (PMS)?

Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) is a combination of emotional, physical, psychological, and mood disturbances that occur after a woman's ovulation and normally end with the onset of her menstrual flow.

PMS remains a puzzle because of the wide-ranging symptoms and the difficulty in making a firm diagnosis. Several theories have been advanced to explain the cause of PMS. None of these theories has been proven and specific treatments for PMS largely lack a solid scientific basis. Most evidence suggests that PMS results from alterations in or interactions among the levels of sex hormones and brain chemical messengers known as neurotransmitters.

What treatments are available for PMS?

The treatment of PMS can sometimes be as challenging as diagnosing the condition. Some measures lack a solid scientific basis but seem to help some women. Other treatments with a sound scientific basis may not help all patients. General measures include:

  • Exercise: Aerobic exercise for 30 minutes 3-5 times a week improves general health and helps relieve nervous tension and anxiety. Exercise also improves cardiovascular fitness and muscle tone, decreases weight and fluid retention, and improves self-esteem.
  • Emotional support from family and friends.
  • Stress reduction and stress management: Learning relaxation techniques, and developing coping mechanisms to reduce stress.
  • Dietary changes: Reduce salt and refined sugar intake (too much salt and refined sugar exacerbates fluid retention).
  • Avoid caffeine, as this may increase irritability
  • Decrease the intake of animal fats.
  • Avoid cigarettes and alcohol.

Research studies have linked a deficiency of calcium and magnesium to PMS; therefore, it may be beneficial for woman to try supplements of these nutrients at recommended dosages. Some women have reported relief of symptoms with these supplements. It is always important to follow recommended guidelines when taking vitamin supplements, since taking excess doses of some supplements may be harmful.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 11/23/2015

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