Health Topics

Healthy Living

April 2011
Period of Pain
Shed the Flab Work Out to Reduce the Pain
Dr. Usha Bohra
Menstrual cramps mostly begin at about age 15 and miraculously, almost always disappear at 25 or 30 years. Curiously, most sufferers break free of the malady after they are married and raise children. One good way to reduce the cramps is to stop being sedentary and overweight.

20 percent of those with dysmenorrhea (painful periods) also report that their mother or sister also had similar problems. Primary dysmenorrhea refers to the cramping pain in the lower abdomen occurring at the onset of menstruation, in the absence of identifiable pelvic disease. It is characterised by:
  • Lower abdominal pain, which starts with the actual menstrual flow — never before - and lasts for a few hours or days. The pain is felt chiefly in the pelvis and lower back, and it, sometimes, also spreads to the legs. It can be considerably severe and may be continuous.
  • Nausea and vomiting,which are fairly common.
  • Feeling very weak and faint, though occasionally.
This is different from secondary dysmenorrhea, which usually begins before menstruation and lasts for the duration of bleeding.

Why is it Painful?
The probable cause for these cramps is the sudden tightening in the blood vessels that supply blood to the uterus because of release of a certain chemical. This leads to diminished blood and oxygen circulation in this area. Metabolism does not happen well in the uterus and pelvic muscles in this condition. Waste products of metabolism, such as carbon dioxide and lactic acid build up, intensifying the pain and discomfort. 

Help is at Hand
Always think of menstruation as a healthy and clean process. This would do you a world of good! Conversely, too much of unnecessary worry can only add to the tension in the muscles and worsen the cramps. Some simple measures can provide big relief.
  • Women who are sedentary and overweight run an increased risk of suffering from menstrual cramps. Those who continue doing physical activity and participate in sports and outdoor activity suffer less. Shed the flab and work out.
  • Maintaining good nutrition, avoiding junk food and taking natural foods in sufficient amounts help in a big way. Such habits check constipation, which is known to worsen menstrual cramps.
  • Adequate rest at night is also useful. It equips the body to function in a better and more normal fashion.
  • Good menstrual hygiene is also necessary.
  • Some women find that the use of tampons worsens their condition. They should switch to sanitary napkins.
4 Relief Measures
  • A simple analgesic pill relieves symptoms in 70 percent of the cases. Any analgesic pill will usually bring prompt, efficient relief from pain and discomfort. You may take one you prefer, either on prescription from your physician, or over the counter from your chemist. Aspirin and Paracetamol are most commonly used. Their use for half to one day is often adequate.Those with the problem on a recurring basis should carry tablets with them when trouble is anticipated.
  • Try antispasmodics: These medications are to be used only on a doctor’s prescription, and must be taken under correct medical supervision. They relieve spasm of the uterine muscle.
  • Hormone therapy: The contraceptive pill has had a dramatic and major beneficial effect in reducing dysmenorrhea. Today, many young women in the dysmenorrhea age bracket regularly take the pill for contraceptive reasons. Many notice that their period pains suddenly vanish. However, for younger women, not married, and not wishing to obviously be taking the pill,special commercial packs have been prepared which are basically the same product, but under a different pack and brand name. Often, use of the pill for several months will eliminate the problem of dysmenorrhea. Frequently,when the pill is discontinued, the period problem ceases also. But if not,medication may be continued.
  • Some patients will not report any improvement despite medications. These patients require further evaluation in form of pelvic sonography, hysteroscopy or laproscopy.
Foods to avoid are:
  • Refined foods like, white flour, white sugar
  • Fried foods
  • Processed foods like confectionaries, snacks
  • Caffeinated drinks and alcohol
  • Foods with high salt and /or sugar content
  • Red meats
  • Cold foods like ice cream, soft drinks

Dr. Usha Bohra is Consultant - Gynaecology at Apollo Hospitals, Ahmedabad

  • The information on this site does not constitute medical advice and is not intended to be a substitute for medical care provided by a physician.
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