Menstrual cramps can cause mild discomfort to severe pain in the
lower abdomen, back, or thighs. The pain usually starts right before or at the
beginning of your period. During this time, you may also have headaches,
diarrhea or constipation, nausea, dizziness, or fainting.
every woman has menstrual pain. But it can be a normal part of how the body
To help relieve menstrual cramps:
- Apply heat to your abdomen with a heating pad
or hot water bottle, or take a warm bath. You might find that heat relieves the
pain as well as medicine does.
- Lie down and elevate your legs by
putting a pillow under your knees.
- Lie on your side and bring your
knees up to your chest. This will help relieve back pressure.
using pads instead of tampons.
- Get regular exercise.
You might find that it helps relieve pain.
Over-the-counter medicine usually
relieves menstrual pain.
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as
ibuprofen, help relieve menstrual cramps and pain.
- Start taking the recommended dose of pain reliever when discomfort
begins or 1 day before your menstrual period starts.
- Take the
medicine for as long as the symptoms would normally last if you did not take
- If an NSAID does not
relieve the pain, try acetaminophen, such as Tylenol.
Be safe with medicines. Read and follow all instructions on the label. If you are pregnant or trying to become pregnant, talk to your
doctor before using any medicine. Do not take aspirin if you are younger than 20 because of the risk of
Prescription medicine is a good choice if over-the-counter
medicine does not bring you relief. Birth control hormones help relieve
menstrual pain and lighten bleeding for most women.1
They also prevent pregnancy. Talk to your doctor about trying the
birth control pill, patch, or ring. With most types of hormone birth control,
you take the hormones every day for 3 weeks, then take a week off. This is when
you might get a menstrual period. There are some types of pills that you can
take over 3 months, or even every day of the year. With these, you might have
unexpected spotting or bleeding, especially during the first year.
Normal Menstrual Cycle
Shushan A (2013). Complications of menstruation and abnormal uterine bleeding. In AH DeCherney et al., eds., Current Diagnosis and Treatment: Obstetrics and Gynecology, 11th ed., pp. 611–619. New York: McGraw-Hill.
Other Works Consulted
Lentz GM (2012). Primary and secondary dysmenorrhea, premenstrual syndrome, and premenstrual dysphoric disorder. In GM Lentz et al., eds., Comprehensive Gynecology, 6th ed., pp. 791–803. Philadelphia: Mosby.