Treatment For Painful Periods

Posted on 2013-03-28 00:00:33

The treatment of dysmenorrhea is generally guided by the severity of the pain and the level of disruption of daily activity during menstruation. In mild cases, non-medicinal approaches can be used alone or in combination with mild pain relievers. In more severe cases, the use of multiple medications may be necessary to control the pain. However, there is no single simple easy to use and entirely safe method of treating dysmenorrhea in all women.   Non-medicinal approaches These methods provide easy to implement home remedies that can be used in all stages of dysmenorrhea. Their effectiveness is not uniform for all women, with some swearing by them and others reporting no relief. They various approaches include:
  • Engaging in various forms of exercise for example walking, abdominal exercises and stretch exercises. This should be started before the onset of the period for the benefits to be felt during menses.
  • Abdominal massage or lower back massage helps relieve the discomfort, though this is not the case for all women.
  • Taking hot baths has been reported as soothing.
  • Applying a heating pad or hot water bottle to the lower abdomen or the lower back.
  • Engaging in relaxation techniques such as yoga and deep breathing exercises.
  • Getting adequate and regular sleep.
  • Maintaining a healthy balanced diet. Some women have reported relief by adopting a low-fat diet or intake of fish-oil supplements.
Medication for dysmenorrhea When the non-medicinal methods fail to relieve dysmenorrhea, a health care provider may recommend medications such as pain relievers and hormonal contraceptives.
  • Pain relievers – The most common pain relievers used are the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS). There are several NSAID’s that have been used with varying effectiveness in relieving dysmenorrhea. These include drugs such as paracetamol, ibuprofen, diclofenac, mefenamic acid and so on. These are preferably taken a few days before or at the onset of menses. Though they are readily available over the counter, it is advisable to consult a doctor before starting any particular NSAID to assess the safety. They should not be taken by those with peptic ulcer disease, kidney insufficiency or bleeding disorders.
  • Hormonal oral contraceptives are also used to control dysmenorrhea. These drugs eventually inhibit ovulation, which reduces the amount of blood flow and the prostaglandins produced during menses. These two effects result in significant reduction of pain associated with menses. These are ofcourse useful in those not willing to conceive. The oral contraceptives can be used alone but are more often used in combination with the NSAIDs described above.
  • The intrauterine contraceptive device (IUCD) also referred to as the coil, which releases hormones (levonorgestrel) has also been reported to reduce the pain associated with dysmenorrhea. The basic copper-based IUCD without hormones has no effect on dysmenorrhea and in some instances has been reported to worsen dysmenorrhea.
  • DepoProvera is an injectable hormonal contraceptive that can also be used to relieve dysmenorrhea.
  Surgical options Surgical options exist for treatment of secondary dysmenorrhea, due to conditions such as fibroids, adenomysosis e.t.c. Surgery however is not routinely performed for primary dysmenorrhea.   Alternative options
  • Acupuncture and acupressure have also been used to relieve dysmenorrhea.
  • Vitamin supplements have been reported to provide relief of dysmenorrhea. These include vitamin B1, vitamin E, omega 3 fatty acids and magnesium.
  • Various herbal treatments have also been used to relieve dysmenorrhea.
  Patient testimonials Some experiences shared by patients regarding dysmenorrhea include: I have had painful cramps from high school that increase with severity over the years. I have used paracetamol and Brufen and I drink a lot of water which helps. I also find laughing with a friend, and taking a walk actually helps relieve the pain.” I am 22 years and I started having my periods since I was 12 years old. The pain started after 6 months since my periods started. The pain lasts for 2 days but it can get very bad. The pain has reduced since last year. I normally take pain killers before my periods but sleeping after the medication and the use of heating pads also helps. When I have severe acne, the pains are worse than when I have less acne before my menses. I guess there is some hormonal connection.” I am 26 years old and I had severe cramps for as long as I can remember. However, last year I finally decided to take the advice of the doctor and use oral contraceptives together with my pain medication. And I now wish I had started them a long time ago. Not only is the pain significantly less, but the flow is also lighter. And now that I’m in a stable relationship, I have the added advantage of birth control. Guess that kills two birds with one stone.” In conclusion Whatever approach one uses in treating dysmenorrhea whether medical, or alternative treatments, it is important to seek a medical consultation in order to clarify the true source of the dysmenorrhea. Mis-diagnosis of secondary dysmenorrhea as primary dysmenorrhea causes unnecessary pain over the years and delays the necessary definitive treatment. A pelvic exam done by a medical doctor is crucial to rule out any pelvic pathology associated with secondary dysmenorrhea. As the cliché goes…”better safe than sorry”