I felt like I was spinning…my palms were sweaty as I gripped to a poll on the F train. A faint lightness quickly came over me as an indescribable stabbing pain repeatedly struck my lower abdomen. That’s what I remember before I suddenly fell to the floor of the New York City subway. Sound familiar? Then you, like many girls between the age of 12 and 30, were most likely experiencing dysmenorrhea, a term that means a “difficult or painful period.”
Thankfully, I was able to get home safely without anyone’s help that night, but the cramping bothered me so much that it prompted me to look up exactly what was happening to me. What you should know about dysmenorrhea is that there are two types: primary and secondary. It’s not uncommon to experience dysmenorrhea, especially if you just started having your period. The good news is that it goes away with age or once a woman has given birth.
According to Young Women’s Health, primary dysmenorrhea is the most common type and is described as cramping pain in the lower abdomen that can start one to two days before your period comes and may be accompanied by lower back pain. Secondary dysmenorrhea is when cramps cause medical problems like endometriosis or pelvic inflammatory disease. Studies show that dysmenorrhea is the result of a naturally occurring substance called prostaglandin, which causes your uterus to contract.
Fortunately, you can alleviate your pain with some quick home remedies:
1. Take over-the-counter pain relievers that contain ibuprofen and naproxem sodium like Advil, Tylenol or Midol. You can start taking pain relievers once you feel the first signs of your period coming. Be sure to read the label and follow the recommended daily dosage.
2. Do some form of exercise to reduce the pain. For some girls, simple exercises like walking or running help ease the pain from menstrual cramps.
3. Take a hot bath and use aromatherapy to relax your senses and ease aches.
4. Use a heating pad on your lower abdomen to improve circulation and blood flow. If you don’t have a heating pad at home, you can make one by filling a men’s tube sock or microwave-safe bag with rice and heating it in the microwave for a few minutes.
Studies show that consuming more foods rich in zinc, calcium and B vitamins have been found to reduce menstrual cramping and bloating. If none of these home remedies work for you, consult with your doctor about other options (some doctors may even recommend taking birth control to reduce or eliminate menstrual cramps).
Though menstrual cramping can be uncomfortable, it’s all part of growing up. If your cramps are too painful, take a day off from school or work. Simply put: less stress means less pain.