Menstrual Cramps (Dysmenorrhea): Causes, Symptoms & Relief Options

Fikri Hilmi
By Fikri Hilmi February 20, 2017 05:07

Menstrual Cramps (Dysmenorrhea): Causes, Symptoms & Relief Options

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Menstrual Cramps

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Menstruation occurs when the uterus sheds it’s lining once a month. The lining passes through a small opening in the cervix and out through the vaginal canal.

Some pain, cramping, and discomfort during menstrual periods is normal. Excessive pain that causes you to miss work or school is not.

Dysmenorrhea is the medical term for the painful cramps that may occur immediately before or during the menstrual period. There are two types of dysmenorrhea: primary dysmenorrhea and secondary dysmenorrhea.

Primary dysmenorrhea is another name for common menstrual cramps. Cramps usually begin one to two years after a woman starts getting her period. Pain usually is felt in the lower abdomen or back. They can be mild to severe. Common menstrual cramps often start shortly before or at the onset of the period and continue one to three days. They usually become less painful as a woman ages and may stop entirely after the woman has her first baby.

Secondary dysmenorrhea is pain caused by a disorder in the woman’s reproductive organs. These cramps usually begin earlier in the menstrual cycle and last longer than common menstrual cramps.

What Are the Symptoms of Menstrual Cramps?

The symptoms of menstrual cramps include:

  • Aching pain in the abdomen (Pain can be severe at times)
  • Feeling of pressure in the abdomen
  • Pain in the hips, lower back, and inner thigh

When cramps are severe, symptoms may include:

  • Upset stomach, sometimes with vomiting
  • Loose stools

What Causes Common Menstrual Cramps?

Menstrual cramps are caused by contractions in the uterus, which is a muscle. The uterus, the hollow, pear-shaped organ where a baby grows, contracts throughout a woman’s menstrual cycle. If the uterus contracts too strongly, it can press against nearby blood vessels, cutting off the supply of oxygen to the muscle tissue of the uterus. Pain results when part of a muscle briefly loses its supply of oxygen.

Painful menstrual periods can also be the result of an underlying medical condition, such as:

  • premenstrual syndrome (PMS): a group of symptoms caused by hormonal changes in the body that occur 1 to 2 weeks before menstruation begins and go away after a woman begins to bleed
  • endometriosis: a painful medical condition in which cells from the lining of the uterus grow in other parts of the body, usually on the fallopian tubes, ovaries, or tissue lining the pelvis
  • fibroids in the uterus: noncancerous tumors that can put pressure on the uterus or cause abnormal menstruation and pain
  • pelvic inflammatory disease (PID): an infection of the uterus, fallopian tubes, or ovaries often caused by sexually transmitted bacteria that causes inflammation of the reproductive organs and pain
  • adenomyosis: a rare condition in which the uterine lining grows into the muscular wall of the uterus and can be painful because it causes inflammation and pressure
  • cervical stenosis: a rare condition in which the cervix is so small it slows menstrual flow, causing an increase of pressure inside the uterus that causes pain

Women who exercise regularly often have less menstrual pain. To help prevent cramps, make exercise a part of your weekly routine.

Fikri Hilmi
By Fikri Hilmi February 20, 2017 05:07
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