Dysmenorrhea or menstrual cramps occur when the uterus contracts strongly during menstruation. The contraction of the uterus aids to expel its lining (endometrium) and clots out through the vaginal opening. Prostaglandin is the chemical responsible for the contraction of the uterus. The higher the prostaglandins, the higher are the contractions. The uterus contracts throughout the menstrual cycle; however, the maximum contraction occurs during menstruation. Dysmenorrhea may be primary or secondary. Primary dysmenorrhea is due to chemicals called prostaglandins secreted during normal periods. These activate the body’s pain pathways.
Other causes of dysmenorrhea are disorder of the organs of reproduction. This is called secondary dysmenorrhea:
- Endometriosis: The endometrium gets implanted outside your uterus, most commonly on your fallopian tubes, ovaries, or the tissue lining your pelvis.
- Uterine fibroids: These noncancerous tumors in the wall of the uterus can cause pain.
- Adenomyosis: The endometrium begins to grow into the muscular walls of the uterus.
- Pelvic inflammatory disease: This refers to the infection of the female reproductive organs.
- Cervical stenosis: In some women, the cervical opening is small enough to obstruct menstrual flow, causing a painful increase in pressure within the uterus.
- Abnormal pregnancy
- Infections, tumors, or polyps in the pelvic cavity
What is dysmenorrhea?
Dysmenorrhea refers to the pain and cramps that women experience during menstruation. More than half of the women experience some pain for 1-2 days during their menses. However, for some women, the pain is so severe that it interferes with their normal activities for several days a month. There are two types of dysmenorrhea:
- Primary dysmenorrhea: This occurs during your menarche (first start of your period) and continues throughout your life. It may cause severe and frequent menstrual pain due to abnormal or severe uterine contractions.
- Secondary dysmenorrhea: It starts later in life and is caused due to any underlying medical conditions such as pelvic inflammatory disease or endometriosis.
What are the symptoms of dysmenorrhea?
Symptoms may vary among women. However, the most common symptoms noted include:
- Cramping in the lower abdomen
- Feeling of pressure in the abdomen
- Pain in the lower abdomen
- Low back pain
- Pain radiating down the legs
- Loose stools
See your doctor if you have
- Menstrual cramps disrupt your life every month.
- Progressively worsening symptoms.
- Severe menstrual cramps after the age of 25 years.
How can you relieve mild dysmenorrhea?
To ease mild or moderate menstrual cramps
- Place a heating pad or hot water bottle on your lower back or abdomen.
- Take ibuprofen as soon as bleeding or cramping starts.
- Rest when needed.
- Avoid caffeine.
- Avoid smoking and drinking alcohol.
- Massage your lower back and abdomen.
- Exercise regularly.
Your doctor may also recommend
- Hormonal birth control.
- Surgery in case of secondary dysmenorrhea.
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calendulaCalendula is a flowering plant that has been commonly used in medicinal preparations in alternative medicine. The suggested medicinal uses of calendula include minor cuts, wounds, and burns; diaper rash, dermatitis, peptic ulcers, hemorrhoids, fever, painful menstruation (dysmenorrhea), vaginal Candida yeast infection (candidiasis), and others. Common side effects of calendula include allergic reactions. Oral calendula may cause uterine contraction and miscarriage if taken during pregnancy. Do not take if pregnant or breastfeeding.
Common Medical Abbreviations & Terms
Doctors, pharmacists, and other health-care professionals use abbreviations, acronyms, and other terminology for instructions and information in regard to a patient's health condition, prescription drugs they are to take, or medical procedures that have been ordered. There is no approved this list of common medical abbreviations, acronyms, and terminology used by doctors and other health- care professionals. You can use this list of medical abbreviations and acronyms written by our doctors the next time you can't understand what is on your prescription package, blood test results, or medical procedure orders. Examples include:
- ANED: Alive no evidence of disease. The patient arrived in the ER alive with no evidence of disease.
- ARF: Acute renal (kidney) failure
- cap: Capsule.
- CPAP: Continuous positive airway pressure. A treatment for sleep apnea.
- DJD: Degenerative joint disease. Another term for osteoarthritis.
- DM: Diabetes mellitus. Type 1 and type 2 diabetes
- HA: Headache
- IBD: Inflammatory bowel disease. A name for two disorders of the gastrointestinal (BI) tract, Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis
- JT: Joint
- N/V: Nausea or vomiting.
- p.o.: By mouth. From the Latin terminology per os.
- q.i.d.: Four times daily. As in taking a medicine four times daily.
- RA: Rheumatoid arthritis
- SOB: Shortness of breath.
- T: Temperature. Temperature is recorded as part of the physical examination. It is one of the "vital signs."
false unicorn rootFalse unicorn root is an herbal product used as a traditional medicine by Indigenous Americans, and eventually by Europeans as well, to treat menstrual, gynecological, digestive, urinary, and other disorders. The suggested uses of false unicorn root include the following the absence of menstruation (amenorrhea), painful menstruation (dysmenorrhea), premenstrual syndrome (PMS), ovarian cysts, infertility, repeated miscarriages, morning sickness, menopausal symptoms, and others. Avoid use if you are pregnant or breastfeeding. Common side effects of false unicorn root include nausea and vomiting.
Menstrual cramps (pain in the belly and pelvic area) are experienced by women as a result of menses. Menstrual cramps are not the same as premenstrual syndrome (PMS). Menstrual cramps are common, and may be accompanied by headache, nausea, vomiting, constipation, or diarrhea. Severity of menstrual cramp pain varies from woman to woman. Treatment includes OTC or prescription pain relief medication.
Menstrual Cramps and PMS (Premenstrual Syndrome) Treatment
Menstrual cramps and premenstrual syndrome (PMS) symptoms include abdominal cramping, bloating, a feeling of fullness, abdominal pain, mood swings, anxiety and more. Treatment for menstrual cramps and premenstrual syndrome (PMS) symptoms include regular sleep, exercise, smoking cessation, diet changes, and OTC or prescription medication depending on the severity of the condition.
PMS SlideshowPremenstrual Syndrome (PMS) can cause from mood swings, munchies, and more. Learn about the symptoms, causes and treatments of PMS.
25 Ways to Relieve Menstrual CrampsMenstrual cramps happen when prostaglandins force the uterus to contract. Dysmenorrhea, or period pain, may be relieved by heating pads, ibuprofen, and other measures. Endometriosis may cause severe cramps during the menstrual cycle. Luckily, women have many options for period pain relief.