Menstrual Cramps - Effective Treatments

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What kinds of treatments have been effective for your menstrual cramps?

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What is the treatment for common menstrual cramps (primary dysmenorrhea)?

Every woman needs to find a treatment that works for her. There are a number of possible remedies for menstrual cramps.

Current recommendations include not only adequate rest and sleep, but also regular exercise (especially walking). Some women find that abdominal massage, yoga, or orgasmic sexual activity may bring relief. A heating pad applied to the abdominal area may relieve the pain and congestion and decrease symptoms.

A number of nonprescription (over-the-counter) agents can help control the pain as well as actually prevent the menstrual cramps themselves. For mild cramps, aspirin or acetaminophen (Tylenol), or acetaminophen plus a diuretic (Diurex MPR, FEM-1, Midol, Pamprin, Premsyn, and others) may be sufficient. However, aspirin has limited effect in curbing the production of prostaglandin and is only useful for less painful cramps.

The main agents for treating moderate menstrual cramps are the nonsteroidal antiinflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), which lower the production of prostaglandin and lessen its effect. The NSAIDs that do not require a prescription are:

  • ibuprofen (Advil, Midol IB, Motrin, Nuprin, and others);
  • naproxen sodium (Aleve, Anaprox); and
  • ketoprofen (Actron, Orudis KT).

A woman should start taking one of these medications before her pain becomes difficult to control. This might mean starting medication 1 to 2 days before her period is due to begin and continuing taking medication 1-2 days into her period. The best results are obtained by taking one of the NSAIDs on a scheduled basis and not waiting for the pain to begin.

Prescription NSAIDs available for the treatment of menstrual cramps include mefenamic acid (Ponstel) and meclofenamate (Meclomen).

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See what others are saying

Comment from: 25-34 Female (Patient) Published: May 14

I am 26, I have had my periods since I was 14 and my cramps are pretty bad. During the first 2 days of my period, my cramps are really intense and my whole lower back is stiff and painful. I take 2 Ibuprofens every 2 hours, which helps, but is frowned upon by my doctor, but I haven't found a good alternative; and if I take less it is just not bearable. When the pain medications fail me, I go home, take 2 hot water bottles and basically strap one to my abdomen and one on my lower back, (I use a blanket that I tie around my belly and my pajama pants to hold them in place) and then I try to sleep. If I can't fall asleep, I let hot water into my bathtub and some chamomile essence and sit in the bathtub, while I wipe away my sweat (cause the water is way too hot) with a cold washcloth. This is kind of messy to be honest, but instant pain relief for me.

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Comment from: Anon, 25-34 Female (Patient) Published: December 30

Bananas are my best friend to handle menstrual cramps. Eat 2 to 3 bananas a day starting a couple days before or even the first day of your period and cramping is dramatically reduced or even eliminated altogether. Bananas also help diarrhea! And if you need something more for pain, Aleve (naproxen sodium) is the best OTC relief I have found. My doctor had me taking 2 in the morning and 2 in the evening starting a day or two before my expected period. Works way better than Tylenol, ibuprofen, or even Midol! I used to miss school/work every month from cramps and diarrhea. Now my periods are pain free!

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