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Cramps affect many people before and during their period. While some people only experience mild cramps, others aren’t quite as lucky. In some cases, the pain from period cramps can be extreme and make a serious dent in your daily life.
If period pain is cramping your style every month, there are steps you can take to gain back control. Here are 10 proven home remedies that may ease your discomfort, and help you get back on track with your busy life.
Using a heated patch or wrap on your abdomen can help relax the muscles of your uterus. It’s these muscles that cause period cramps. Heat can also boost circulation in your abdomen, which can reduce pain.
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Besides being effective at easing pain and cramps, the research also showed that participants who used a heat wrap had less fatigue and mood swings.
You can find abdominal heat patches at your local drugstore and online. They’re super easy to use. Just peel and stick them on your abdomen.
Electric heating pads and hot water bottles aren’t as convenient to use as patches. But they’re good choices if you’re spending some time at home and don’t need to move around much.
Research suggests that some essential oils can help ease period cramps when massaged onto the abdomen, especially when used in a blend of oils.
Oils that seem to be most effective at reducing period cramps, due to their ability to boost circulation, include:
You can find essential oils online, or at your local health food store. Some drugstores may sell them, too.
Before using essential oils, you’ll want to mix them with a carrier oil, like coconut oil or jojoba oil. Carrier oils work by safely “carrying” the essential oil into your skin, and helping to spread the oil over a large area.
Once your oil mixture is ready to use, rub a few drops between your hands and then give your tummy a gentle massage.
Experts say massaging in a circular motion for just five minutes a day before and during your period may help lessen cramps and boost circulation in your abdomen.
According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, OTC pain relievers like ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), naproxen (Aleve), and aspirin (Bufferin) are effective treatments for period cramps.
These medications work best if they’re taken at the first sign of cramps or pain.
You can find ibuprofen, naproxen, or aspirin, at any drugstore. Be sure to take only as directed, and talk to your doctor first if you have a history of heart, liver, or kidney problems, or if you have asthma, ulcers, or bleeding disorders.
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In this study, scientists found that women who did 30 minutes of aerobic exercise three days a week, for eight weeks, showed significant reductions in period cramps.
To fit an aerobic workout into your schedule, consider biking to work, going for a brisk walk at lunchtime, dancing to your favorite tunes, or playing a sport you enjoy.
Soaking in a warm bathtub is another way to surround your pelvic muscles with the warmth they need to relax.
You can enhance the pain-relieving power of a good soak by adding a few drops of essential oils — like lavender, sage, or rose — to your bathwater.
Try to relax in a warm bath for at least 15 minutes to get the most benefits from it.
In this study, experts found that women who participated in a 60-minute yoga class once a week for 12 weeks showed significant reductions in their period pain.
If you’d like to try yoga, look for a class with both a physical component and a relaxation component. Research suggests this combination is most effective at reducing pain from period cramps.
Several studies suggest that different types of dietary supplements may help reduce period cramps, though it’s not known exactly how they work. Some supplements that show promise in reducing period pain include:
- vitamins B-6, B-1, E, and D, magnesium and zinc
- vitamin B-12 and fish oil
You can find dietary supplements at your local drugstore or online. Use as directed, and talk to your doctor if you’re taking any other medications, as they may interact with supplements.
While supplements may help ease period pain, it’s also a good idea to avoid certain foods that can cause water retention, bloating, and discomfort. Some types of foods to stay away from when you have cramps include:
- salty foods
- fatty foods
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According to experts, you’re more likely to have abdominal cramps during your period if you’re dehydrated.
Aim to drink eight 8-ounce glasses of water per day. You’ll need more if it’s hot, if you’ve been exercising, or if you simply feel thirsty.
Acupressure is a noninvasive Chinese medicine treatment that’s used for many health issues. This treatment involves using your fingers to apply firm pressure to specific body parts to help ease various symptoms.
According to a 2004 study, rubbing circles on your calf at a point above your ankle can relieve period pain.
The way to do this is to:
- Measure four fingertips up from your inner ankle bone.
- Firmly rub this area for several minutes.
- Repeat daily as needed before and during your period.
Period cramps are caused by contractions in your uterus. These contractions are triggered by changes in your body’s hormone levels. When you menstruate, your uterus contracts and sheds its lining, which is released as blood through your vagina.
Some people are more likely to experience period pain. Risk factors include people who:
- are younger than 30 years of age
- bleed heavily during their periods
- have irregular bleeding
- have a family history of period pain
- started puberty early (age 11 or earlier)
Although period cramps are very common, severe pain isn’t normal. You’ll want to make an appointment to see a doctor if:
- your period cramps are so painful that you can’t go about your daily activities
- you started having severe menstrual cramps at or after age 25
Extreme pain before or during your period can be a sign of a more serious health condition that needs treatment, such as:
Period cramps are very common, but there are times when they can interfere with your day-to-day life. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to ease the pain and discomfort caused by these pesky cramps.
If, however, the pain doesn’t go away after a couple of days, or is so extreme that you have difficulty functioning, be sure to follow up with your doctor.