No woman looks forward to her time of the month: that dreaded week that feels like an eternity. It’s different for everyone, but one thing’s for sure — if you’ve ever experienced painful cramps, you know just how terrible the symptoms can be. Aside from self-medicating or resorting to whiskey shots first thing in the morning, there doesn’t seem to be much you can do. For most women, there’s no time to wallow in self-pity and hide under the covers all day, so a better strategy is needed. The next time you’re up against Mother Nature’s mighty wrath, here are five things that may help ease your period cramp pain.
1. A heating pad or hot water bottle on your stomach
From homemade remedies to products that specifically target menstrual cramps, applying heat to the affected area may help relieve some of your period pain. Dr. Michael Bummer, co-director of Womancare Associates at Magee-Womens Hospital at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, told Today, “This increases blood flow to the area and provides a sense of release and comfort.” It’s a simple enough solution, and the heat will help sooth that unwanted cramping. Whether you’re in bed for the night or you’re lounging on the couch, grabbing a hot towel or water bottle can do wonders.
2. Fish oil, vitamin B1, and magnesium
Upping your intake of fish oil, vitamin B1, and magnesium could prove beneficial during your time of the month. According to Everyday Health, research published in 2014 in the Global Journal of Health Science found, in a group of 240 teens with menstrual cramps, those who took either B1 and/or fish oil supplements daily had significantly less pain than the placebo group. Additionally, DeJarra Sims, a naturopathic doctor, told the publication magnesium can minimize discomfort. This mineral helps regulate nerve and muscle functioning, so it can help with menstrual pain. But the dosage will vary depending on cramp severity and an individual’s age. It’s best to talk to your doctor to find out what’s appropriate.
Sure, this method may sound extreme, but it could be worth a shot if you’re someone who has struggled with serious period pain over the years. With acupuncture, the nervous system is relaxed, resulting in increased blood flow to the internal organs. A 2011 Cochrane review looked at a number of studies examining the effects that acupuncture had on period cramps compared to no treatment or conventional treatment. Overall, they found both acupuncture and acupressure could reduce pain. More research is likely needed, but this method may be worth a try.
While it may seem your current state of agony won’t allow you to be active or afford you the chance to get some exercise, releasing endorphins can certainly help you overcome those nasty period blues. As Bummer told Today, research has found exercising three to five days a week has some efficacy in reducing cramping. “This also probably works by increasing blood flow and thereby better oxygenation to the uterus,” he said. Furthermore, according to Tampax, exercising during your period will lower your level of prostaglandins, which are active lipid compounds that can intensify menstrual cramps.
5. Massage with essential oils
In a 2012 study published in the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology Research, using certain aromatic essential oils and massages can help relieve menstrual cramp pain as well. In addition to helping minimize pain, researchers found the oil massages also shortened the duration of discomfort. The next time you’re shopping for grooming products, pick up some lavender oil. When your time of the month comes, you’ll be ready.