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Science Lab

Why are periods so painful for some?

While some discomfort during periods is normal but if your periods are so painful that they are hindering your day to day activities – then there may be an underlying cause. In today’s Science Lab, we explore the reasons behind painful periods and remedies to help you deal with the pain.

 Teen's Painful Periods

Photo: Shutterstock/comodigit/Person in the photo is a model. A pretty, teenage girl with long hair is standing outdoors and in pain. She is holding her stomach because of cramps. 

Extreme pain during periods

Well, as we all know periods are usually accompanied with some cramps and discomfort, but if the pain is too much for you to overcome and perform even the simplest day-to-day tasks, then maybe there’s something more.

Dysmenorrhea is the medical term for the pain and discomfort experienced during menstruation. It can be mild or bearable for some while being extremely painful for some others.

The bearable discomfort and pain caused by menstruation can be referred to as primary dysmenorrhea. 

But the extreme pain and discomfort comes under the category of secondary dysmenorrhea and is caused mostly due to medical conditions or disorders in the reproductive organs. The pain is a lot more severe in this case and can include other symptoms like migraines, diarrhoea, vomiting etc.

What causes this pain?

There are many causes for painful periods. Let’s understand some of the most common reasons.

Endometriosis – It is a disorder in which tissue that normally lines the uterus ( your reproductive organ responsible for periods) grows outside the uterus. The condition causes increased pain during periods and other symptoms like poor digestion, excessive bloating, migraines etc. 

Premenstrual syndrome – PMS is a common condition caused by the change in hormones before the periods, which can enhance the severity of menstrual cramps. Mood swings and intense sugar cravings are also a part of PMS.

Uterine fibroids – These are benign i.e. non cancerous tumours in the uterus which exert a lot of pressure on it causing abnormal pain during periods.

Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)– This is an infection of the reproductive organs, which lie in the pelvic area ( hence the name). A doctor can determine the cause of this infection, which results in increased discomfort during periods.

Adenomyosis – It is a rare condition where the uterine lining grows into the muscular walls of the uterus, causing heavier and more severely painful periods.

Cervical stenosis – In this condition, the cervical opening ( the area of your cervix – a cylinder-shaped neck of tissue that connects the vagina and uterus) is so narrow that it holds the flow of blood back during menstruation, causing pressure and pain inside the uterus.

Polycystic ovary syndrome/PCOS: In this condition, women often have painful and irregular periods too. When you suffer from PCOS, it can result in fewer than eight menstrual cycles in a year, or make periods more frequent, with cycles of 21 days or less. In both cases, bleeding results in acute abdominal cramping and pain.

In addition to these medical conditions, the degree of pain during periods is also influenced by factors such as:

  • Reaching puberty before the age of 11
  • Being under the age of 20
  • Smoking
  • Family history of painful periods
  • Irregular periods

Treatment for painful periods

Medicines –  Pain relievers such as ibuprofen, naproxen sodium or acetaminophen may be prescribed for managing pain during periods. But consult your doctor for any medication. Do not self medicate. Sometimes your doctor may prescribe some medicines which may have some hormones to ease the pain. Trust your doctor. 

Surgery: In the case of conditions like fibroids or endometriosis, surgical procedures may be performed to ease the symptoms.

Home remedies for period pain

In addition to these treatment options, you can also try some home remedies for relief from pain like:

  • Use a heating pad or hot water bottle on the affected area to soothe the cramps and ease your pain.
  • Massage the affected area with essential oils such as rosemary, marjoram, lavender or clary sage for about 20 minutes for pain relief. 
  • Avoid caffeine, carbonated drinks, salty and fatty foods and alcohol during your periods. 
  • Drink water infused with carom seeds and fennel seeds for relief from gas and bloating during menstruation, which can amplify the pain.
  • Stay hydrated and focus on enhancing your fluid intake
  • Exercise helps with hormone regulation, which can help ease your pain. Even if you’re unable to exercise during your period, try to maintain a regular workout regimen for the rest of the month.

Painful periods can really affect your quality of life. Just remember that this unbearable pain during your period is not normal, no matter how many times someone tells you it is. If you’re struggling with it, consult a doctor, preferably a gynaecologist (a doctor who deals with female reproductive health) and consciously work toward making lifestyle changes such as exercising, eating healthy.

Extreme Pain During Periods

Photo: Shutterstock/fizkes/Person in the photo is a model. 

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