Heavy painful periods, also known as dysmenorrhea, is more common than we think. Commonly caused by uterine contractions, they are often described as mild, moderate or severe cramps in the lower abdomen during your menstrual period. There are two types of menstrual cramps: primary dysmenorrhea and secondary dysmenorrhea.
Primary dysmenorrhea is the recurrent pain that occurs one or two days before or during your periods. This includes mild to severe pain in the lower back, abdomen or thighs. Vomiting, fatigue and diarrhoea are often common. Though menstrual cramps are common among menstruators, they must not interfere with your daily activities and rest.
Secondary dysmenorrhea is caused by an infection or disorder in the female reproductive organs i.e. fibroids, pelvic inflammatory disease, adenomyosis or endometriosis. In this case, cramps begin earlier and last longer than regular menstrual cramps. Those with secondary dysmenorrhea also suffer from diarrhoea, nausea, fatigue and vomiting.
When should you contact your gynaecologist?
If you suffer from severe menstrual cramps that last more than three days, visit your doctor. Keep track of your menarche, menstrual cycle, symptoms, sexual activity and family history. The gynaecologist will ask you about your menstrual cycle and symptoms while conducting a pelvic examination. They will insert a speculum inside the vagina to check for changes in the cervix and uterus or take samples of vaginal fluid for testing.
In case of secondary dysmenorrhea, they will conduct laparoscopy or ultrasound tests If you use tampons and notice diarrhoea, vomiting, dizziness, fainting, fever and rashes, get immediate medical attention as these are the symptoms of toxic shock syndrome. Medication includes non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen or even birth control.
What are the common treatment procedures for primary dysmenorrhea?
In most cases, period pain treatment comprises the following:
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen, which often carry the risk of gastric issues and ulcers. Consult your healthcare provider for the right dose for your condition.
- Heating pads and hot water bags relieve menstrual cramps
- Avoiding alcohol, smoking and caffeinated foods
- Massaging the abdomen and lower back to relieve pelvic pain
- Oral contraceptives
- Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) units, acupressure and acupuncture help with severe menstrual cramps
- Therapeutic dance exercises such as belly dance and Pilates help people with dysmenorrhea
Is pelvic floor therapy recommended for primary dysmenorrhea?
A pelvic health specialist teaches pain management techniques, which will alleviate discomfort and cramping as a treatment for heavy painful periods.
- Abdominal massage
They teach strategies that relax tissual restrictions in your pelvic and abdominal cavities that cause bloating and cramping.
- Neuromuscular re-education
They conduct an examination that determines the cause of pelvic floor dysfunction, which contributes to painful periods and pelvic pain.
- Therapeutic exercise
They teach exercises that increase the range of lubrication, mobility and motion in your lower back and the pelvic region, which reduces pain and stiffness. In case of dysfunction, they re-coordinate the body and brain to relax the pelvic muscles to reduce muscle spasms and cramps.
- Myofascial release
They use manual therapy that addresses the pelvic girdle and abdominal muscles that cause spasm and pain when tightened.
In extreme cases, surgery is recommended to treat dysmenorrhea. If you are looking for a reliable medical clinic that performs safe and successful laparoscopic hysterectomy surgery, please visit us at Well Women Clinic.