A large number of patients I see daily complain of miserable menstrual cramps. These aggravating cramps can range from pain in your lower abdomen as well as in your back and down both legs. Fortunately, you don’t have to be uncomfortable for 5-7 days out of each menstrual cycle. There are a lot of things you can to on your own before resorting to medications. Generally, women who exercise frequently and weigh appropriately for their height and frame cramp less than overweight women. Exercise reduces uterine contractions and the corresponding sensation of cramps. Marathon runners seldom cramp. What can you do first before seeing your gynecologist? Exercise at least 3 days a week. Maintain a normal body weight for your height. Additionally, there are many analgesics available over the counter to help minimize your pain. Ibuprofen, Naprosyn and Alleve are safe, effective, and cheap. The key point to remember is to start taking the medication the day before your period starts, usually when spotting occurs before the heavier flow begins. That way, the medication will be in your system and you won’t have to play “catch up”. If you start soon enough, you won’t have to miss work, or lay in bed at home in the fetal position with a heating pad on your stomach.
If you have tried all these tricks and you still have pain, then its time to see your gynecologist. Depending on your situation, oral contraceptive pills generally can make your periods lighter, shorter, with less clots and cramps. This is a wonderful way to improve your “misery index” during your menses. Stronger non-addicting medication is available that I can prescribe that may also help. If this fails or the pain and cramps get worse or occurs at other times of the month, outpatient surgery may be necessary to diagnosis such conditions as endometriosis, adhesions, and pelvic infections. Just remember, “the curse” doesn’t have to be that way-you don’t have to suffer needlessly; get help-you’ll be glad you did!
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