Don't let painful periods stop you from being active: drugs and holistic therapies make life easier!

Published: 17th October 2005
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"Women have strengths that amaze/They carry children, they carry hardships, they carry burdens/ Yet they hold faith, happiness, love and joy." (Anonymous)

A word or two about women and their attempts to relieve menstrual cramps during those trying times of the month:

Painful menstruation in women is usually accompanied by either sharp, intermittent pain or dull, aching pain, usually in the pelvis or lower abdomen, caused by the contraction of the uterus during menstruation. Often, oral medications like ibuprofen or naproxen have been used to help relieve menstrual cramps. These are common over-the-counter (OTC) medications that can help relieve menstrual cramps and the discomfort that they cause. In addition, doctors often suggest the patients of menstrual pain to follow a diet rich in complex carbohydrates, but low in salt, sugar, alcohol, and caffeine, (like whole grains, fruits, and vegetables), as well as to practice relaxation techniques like meditation or yoga to relieve menstrual cramps.

Studies have revealed that half of the women having their menses suffer from menstrual cramps. Primary Dysmenorrhea or the primary menstrual cramps are mainly caused by the prostaglandins, substances released by the lining of the uterus during the menstruation. These substances cause the contraction of the muscles of the uterus and you suffer the menstrual cramps. Though these menstrual cramps are most likely to cause in the lower abdominal area, it is also experienced by women in the lower back and thighs. In more severe gynecological cases (like in cases of secondary dysmenorrhea, menstrual cramp is associated to underlying physical problems, ranging from 'endometriosis' (inflammation of the lining of the uterus) to uterine fibroid or ovarian cysts. Whatever be the cause, most women suffer the aftermath of menstrual cramp and wish there was a solution to it.

Painful periods being the trying time of the months, almost all women know of the tremendous pain and discomfort that menstrual cramp causes to them. In our good old grandmother's times, the best solution to this overwhelming pain was to just lie down, without any physical activity indulged in, during the first two days of the periods, when menstrual cramps were experienced in its optimum. However, these days such practices are being difficult to maintain, with the number of working women increasing remarkably every single day. Moreover, recent studies have proved that the best solution for a women experiencing menstrual cramp is not to lie down, but to stay active and indulge in a few non-aerobic, low-stress exercises combined with the convenient, continuous heat therapy of heat patches. Combined with low-stress exercises between your bouts of pain, these heat patches will give hours of soothing relief to your menstrual cramp when it tries hard to break your power of tolerance.
For years, women seeking for maximum care and protection throughout painful periods, accompanied by proper hygiene, have experimented with a host of therapies to control menstrual pain. Some of these are:

Drug therapies: Being the most common treatment of painful periods, these include anti-inflammatory agents such as ibuprofen, antibiotics, oral contraceptives and estrogen or oral progestins, which may bring temporary relief, but have potential side effects.

Complimentary and alternative therapies: Combining proper nutritional support and mind-body techniques such as meditation, yoga and exercise, you can bring effective control over your painful periods. While the proper knowledge of food intake will help you to cope with deficiencies, yoga and exercises can help you keep menstrual pain under control.

Herbs: The use of herbal dried extracts, glycerin extracts and alcohol extracts have been known to reduce painful periods in case of 'primary dysmenorhhea'. Certain herbal teas like the red raspberry (Rubus idaeus) tea strengthen uterine tissue, while the tea of chamomile can even help reduce ovarian cyst pain.

Homeopathy: A professional homeopath suggests treatments for painful periods based on his/ her knowledge and clinical experiences, taking into account the person's constitutional type. Medications like Belladonna, Nux Vomica and Magnesia Phos are used for cramping pains and sharp, shooting pains.

Physical medicine: Used to relieve painful periods, especially pelvic pain, they include castor oil packs applied directly to the skin, covered with a clean, soft cloth or flannel and also 'contrast sitz baths' (with the juxtaposition of hot water and cold water therapy).

All said and done, researches indicate that though many women are in the habit of taking analgesics to get period cramp relief, it is always better to adopt lifestyle modification methods like heat therapy, exercise and change of food habit for period cramp relief. As these methods are natural and drug free, they give effective relief from painful period cramps without any side effects.

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