Relieving Menstrual Pain

Search Knowledgebase

Topic Contents

Relieving Menstrual Pain

Topic Overview

Menstrual cramps can cause mild discomfort to severe pain in the lower abdomen, back, or thighs. The pain usually starts right before or in the beginning of your period. During this time, you may also have headaches, diarrhea or constipation, nausea, dizziness, or fainting.

Not every woman has menstrual pain, but it can be a normal part of how the body works.

To help relieve menstrual cramps:

  • Apply heat to your abdomen with a heating pad or hot water bottle, or take a warm bath. You might find that heat relieves the pain as well as medicine does.
  • Lie down and elevate your legs by putting a pillow under your knees.
  • Lie on your side and bring your knees up to your chest. This will help relieve back pressure.
  • Try using pads instead of tampons.
  • Get regular exercise. You might find that it helps relieve pain.

Over-the-counter medicine usually relieves menstrual pain.

  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, help relieve menstrual cramps and pain.
  • Start taking the recommended dose of pain reliever when discomfort begins or 1 day before your menstrual period starts.
  • Take the medicine for as long as the symptoms would normally last if you did not take the medicine.
  • If an NSAID does not relieve the pain, try acetaminophen, such as Tylenol.

Be sure to follow all labels and instructions. If you are pregnant or trying to become pregnant, talk to your doctor before using any medicine. Do not take ASA if you are younger than 20 because of the risk of Reye syndrome.

Prescription medicine is a good choice if over-the-counter medicine does not bring you relief. Birth control hormones help relieve menstrual pain and lighten bleeding for most women.1 They also prevent pregnancy. Talk to your doctor about trying the birth control pill, patch, or ring. With most types of hormone birth control, you take the hormones every day for 3 weeks, then take a week off. This is when you might get a menstrual period. There are some types of pills that you can take over 3 months, or even every day of the year. With these, you might have unexpected spotting or bleeding, especially during the first year.

Other Places To Get Help

Organization

Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada (SOGC)
780 Echo Drive
Ottawa, ON  K1S 5R7
Phone: 1-800-561-2416
(613) 730-4192
Fax: (613) 730-4314
Email: helpdesk@sogc.com
Web Address: www.sogc.org
 

The mission of SOGC is to promote optimal women's health through leadership, collaboration, education, research, and advocacy in the practice of obstetrics and gynaecology.


References

Citations

  1. Colin CM, Shushan A (2007). Complications of menstruation; Abnormal uterine bleeding. In AH DeCherney, et al., eds., Current Diagnosis and Treatment Obstetrics and Gynecology, 10th ed., pp. 570–578. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Other Works Consulted

  • Katz VL, et al. (2007). Primary and secondary dysmenorrhea, premenstrual syndrome, and premenstrual dysphoric disorder. In LO Eckert, GM Lentz, eds., Comprehensive Gynecology, 5th ed., pp. 901–913. Philadelphia: Mosby Elsevier.
  • Lefebvre G, et al. (2005). Primary dysmenorrhea consensus guideline. SOGC Clinical Practice Guideline No. 169. Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology Canada, 27(12): 1117–1130.

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Sarah Marshall, MD - Family Medicine
Primary Medical Reviewer Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Femi Olatunbosun, MB, FRCSC - Obstetrics and Gynecology
Last Revised May 9, 2011

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.