Menstrual cramps are the cramping in the lower abdomen, usually in the first or second day of the menstrual cycle. These are caused contractions of the uterus as it expels its unneeded contents, and also by the passage of clotted blood through the cervix. Ibuprofen (Advil) or other pain relievers can reduce the severity of cramps; some women report that exercise is also helpful.
Severe menstrual cramps, particularly if paired with excessive bleeding or passage of large blood clots, can occasionally be a sign of endometriosis or other disorders of the female reproductive tract. Menstrual cramps are also known as dysmenorrhea.
A review of our Patient Comments indicated that people with menstrual cramps may also have coexisting symptoms. Some patients experienced heavy bleeding with their menstrual cramps. Others experienced nausea, headaches, diarrhea, and back pain. Irritability, bloating, and weakness were also noted. Read on to learn more about menstrual cramps symptoms in our Patient Comments.
Other causes of menstrual cramps
Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.Next Article
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Causes of Menstrual Cramps
Abdominal Adhesions (Scar Tissue)
Abdominal adhesions (scar tissue) bands of scar tissue that form between abdominal organs and tissues. Symptoms of abdominal adhesions are pelvic or abdominal pain. Abdominal adhesions on the intestines can cause bowel obstruction, which is a medical emergency. Treatment for abdominal adhesions is generally surgery to cut the adhesions away from the internal tissues and organs. There is no way to prevent abdominal adhesions.
Endometriosis implants are most commonly found on the ovaries, the Fallopian tubes, outer surfaces of the uterus or intestines, and on the surface lining of the pelvic cavity. They also can be found in the vagina, cervix, and bladder. Endometriosis may not produce any symptoms, but when it does the most common symptom is pelvic pain that worsens just prior to menstruation and improves at the end of the menstrual period. Other symptoms of endometriosis include pain during sex, pain with pelvic examinations, cramping or pain during bowel movements or urination, and infertility. Treatment of endometriosis can be with medication or surgery.
Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID)
Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) is the most common and serious complication of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), aside from AIDS, among women. The signs and symptoms of pelvic inflammatory disease include: fever, vaginal discharge with a foul odor, abdominal pain, including pain during intercourse, and irregular vaginal bleeding. Pelvic inflammatory disease can scar the Fallopian tubes, ovaries, and related structures and lead to ectopic pregnancies, infertility, chronic pelvic pain, and other serious consequences. Pelvic inflammatory disease treatment includes several types of antibiotics.
Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS)
Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) is a combination of physical and emotional disturbances that occur after a woman ovulates and ends with menstruation. Common PMS symptoms include; Depression Irritability Crying Oversensitivity Mood swings For some women PMS symptoms can be controlled with natural and home remedies, medications, and lifestyle changes such as exercise, nutrition, and a family and friend support system.
Uterine Fibroids (Benign Tumors of the Uterus)
Uterine fibroids are benign (non-cancerous) tumors in the womb (uterus). Most uterine fibroids do not cause symptoms; however, if the fibroid is large enough and in the right location, it may cause symptoms of pelvic pain, abnormal vaginal bleeding, and pressure on the bladder or rectum. Uterine fibroids that remain small and do not grow usually do not need treatment; however, surgery to remove the fibroid may be necessary. Uterine fibroids do not cause cancer; however, there is a rare, fast-growing cancerous called leiomyosarcoma.
Examples of Medications for Menstrual Cramps
- acetaminophen (Tylenol, Tylenol Arthritis Pain, Tylenol Ext, Little Fevers Children's Fever/Pain)
- Birth Control Pills (List of Oral Contraceptives and Side Effects)
- celecoxib (Celebrex)
- conjugated equine estrogens and medroxyprogesterone acetate, Prempro, Premphase
- ibuprofen (Advil, Children's Advil/Motrin, Medipren, Motrin, Nuprin, PediaCare Fever, and others)
- Ketorolac vs. diclofenac
- Ketorolac vs. ketoprofen
- naproxen (Aleve, Anaprox, Naprelan, Naprosyn)
- rofecoxib, Vioxx