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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Comment from: Kelly M., 25-34 Female (Patient) Published: February 03

I've had terrible cramps ever since I had my first period at 16. A couple of years ago I had a copper IUD placed (I've had pulmonary embolisms so copper IUD is my only option for birth control) and now the cramps are even worse. However, if I take ibuprofen before the pain gets really awful, it isn't as bad. I also use a heating pad or take a hot shower, which helps a lot.

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Comment from: MS, 25-34 Female (Patient) Published: May 23

When I was a teenager up to my early 20s, I used to take 1 Midol in the morning and it was enough to stop the cramping. Now, I've stopped taking Midol and found that drinking lots of water and doing exercises that focus on my abdomen and pelvic area in between cycles really lessens the pain when my cycle starts. But sometimes when the pain is a little too much, I rest with a heating pad for a while.

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