Period pain may occur as part of the premenstrual syndrome, or may be symptomatic of other reproductive disorders, such as endometriosis.
- Pain in the abdomen, lower back or legs, which typically starts prior to or with the onset of the menstrual period, and may continue for the first 24 hours of the period (or less commonly, may persist for two to three days)
- Pain may be described as a constant ache or sharper spasms
- The menstrual flow may contain clots
- Accompanying symptoms of premenstrual syndrome may include headache, digestive upset (e.g. Nausea, vomiting, Constipation or Diarrhoea), Fluid Retention, breast pain, Low moods and mood swings
- In some cases, period pains become less problematic after childbirth
- Painful periods that are unrelated to underlying disease processes are termed primary dysmenorrhoea. They are believed to occur as the uterus contracts in an attempt to encourage the shedding of the endometrial lining
- An imbalance between pro-inflammatory and anti-inflammatory groups of compounds called prostaglandins is believed to be involved. The levels of these compounds are influenced by hormonal factors, diet and other issues
- Period pain that is symptomatic of underlying disease is referred to as secondary dysmenorrhoea, causes of which include endometriosis and fibroids
Nutritional & Herbal Support
- Vitex, or chaste berry, has traditionally been used to balance female hormones and may provide relief of pre-menstrual symptoms such as period pain, breast tenderness and other symptoms.
- Curcumin is the active component of Tumeric, which has a long history of use in Ayurvedic medicine as an anti-inflammatory which may assist with aches and pains
- St John's wort is a herb that is clinically proven to relieve mood disorders such as Anxiety and Low moods, and may be particularly beneficial when these conditions are associated with menopause
- Valerian is an effective but gentle sedative with additional anti-anxiety properties, and may help to relieve Insomnia and improve sleep quality
- Magnesium deficiency may contribute to the development of premenstrual syndrome, and taking a magnesium supplement may help with period pain and other symptoms. It also supports healthy muscle function and supports the body's ability to cope with Stress in premenstrual syndrome and period pain
Diet & Lifestyle advice
- Severe period pain may be indicative of underlying disease, and requires medical investigation
- The application of heat (e.g. a hot water bottle) may help to relieve back pain and abdominal cramps
- Premenstrual symptoms are more likely to affect women whose diet is high in refined carbohydrates and sugars. Stick to a low glycaemic index (GI) diet that includes slow-burning carbohydrates (such as oats and legumes), and avoid high GI carbohydrates such as sugars, wheat products (e.g. bread), and potatoes
- Avoid saturated fats (animal products) and instead choose unrefined polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats, from fish, nuts, seeds, extra virgin olive oil and avocados
- Avoid caffeine and salt throughout your cycle - these substances may exacerbate your symptoms
- Reduce your exposure to environmental oestrogens by choosing organic food where possible. Pesticide residues may have oestrogenic effects in the body, which may contribute to premenstrual symptoms
- Premenstrual symptoms are more common in women who are physically inactive, and increasing exercise frequency can help reduce the severity of period pain
If symptoms persist consult your healthcare professional. Information provided is of a general nature and should not replace that of your healthcare professional.