Menstrual cramps (dysmenorrhea) are an unpleasant but extremely common symptom of menstruation. For the majority, period pain causes discomfort in the lower abdomen, back, and pelvic region. In fact, you only have to ask a menstruator what their least favourite symptom of their period is, and cramps will likely be at the top on the list. Understanding why you get menstrual cramps is the best way to tackle the cause and find the best solutions to reduce period pain.
So, what causes menstrual cramps?
If an egg is unfertilised, hormone-like substances called prostaglandins cause muscle contractions in the womb. These contractions are the result of the womb shedding its lining (also known as the endometrium). This process can be uncomfortable, resulting in painful menstrual cramps at the beginning of a period.
It is important to reach out to your healthcare provider if your symptoms and pain-level change. Increased pain could also be linked to a number of underlying conditions, such as adenomyosis, endometriosis, imbalanced hormones such as low thyroid conditions, ovarian cysts, or fibroids. All of these conditions can contribute to a more painful period experience. Additionally, if your cramps are severe and disrupt daily tasks, speaking to your GP is essential in obtaining a diagnosis.
Let’s dive right in to some natural remedies that help reduce menstrual cramps!
Sip That Tea
Drinking hot tea to relieve menstrual cramps is one of the oldest tricks in the book. And for good reason: evidence shows that drinking a hot, herbal beverage can help soothe symptoms of PMS. For instance, drinking chamomile tea is shown to be effective for reducing pelvic and abdominal pain, as well as boosting mood.
Chopping up some fresh ginger and adding to freshly boiled water is a simple yet effective home-brew to counteract menstrual cramps. Research shows that ginger works to protect the body against increases of inflammation by inhibiting the body's production of prostaglandins (the hormone-like substance that triggers muscle contractions in the womb).
Adding some honey or fresh lemon to your tea makes for a delicious drink, and can be sipped on throughout the day.
Acupuncture has been around for centuries and is an extremely popular form of alternative medicine originating from the East. Inserting acupuncture needles in strategic spots helps get blood and energy flowing. Acupuncture is a jack-of-all-trades method for alternative healing: it works to alleviates menstrual cramps, reduce bloating and improve mood in the patient.
During your appointment, you can chill out completely without any distractions from the outside world: meditate and breathe, listen to your acupuncturist, notice the sensation of relief on your pressure points to specifically reduce any menstrual discomfort.
Some studies conclude that acupuncture has a strong placebo effect for pain relief, but if you’ve tried other methods of pain relief and you’re open-minded to give acupuncture a try, why not go for it? For those who swear by acupuncture as their natural remedy against cramps, there really isn’t anything better.
Turn Up The Heat, Baby!
A popular home remedy for reducing the severity of menstrual cramps is applying heat to the affected area. A hot water bottle on the abdomen, a heat patch on the lower back, or a microwavable lavender heat bag placed on your pelvis can work wonders against cramps. Heat works by relaxing the contracting muscles and reducing overall discomfort.
We’re all about self-care, so we recommend taking a hot bath to help relieve pain and encourage relaxation. Afterwards, grab your hot water bottle and relax on the sofa for a few blissful hours.
Essential oils have been used for centuries to help calm the mind, heal the body, and soothe the soul. Using essential oils in conjunction with a heat compress is a particularly effective way of reducing the severity of your menstrual cramps.
Many menstruators swear by using various essential oils to help reduce any unpleasant symptoms of PMS. Sensually massaging essential oils (either undiluted or with a carrier oil such as coconut oil) gently over your back and abdomen is an effective way of treating menstrual cramps.
Our particular favourites include clary sage oil (it works by naturally balancing hormones) to help reduce PMS symptoms or you can try dabbing some peppermint oil to your temples to help reinvigorate your mind, reduce brain fog and feelings of fatigue.
Rest, Rest, and More Rest
The importance of getting a full 8 hours kip cannot be understated. We all know the potential health risks of getting too much or too little sleep; conditions such as diabetes and heart disease are more common in those who do not have a routine sleeping schedule, so it’s important to ensure you’re getting enough quality sleep.
Getting enough rest during your period is essential. Interruptions in your regular sleeping patterns can increase menstrual cramps, migraines, cause fatigue, and make you more irritable. Relaxation in general can play a major role in pain relief. So, don’t feel guilty about postponing non-essential tasks in favour of rest. Listen to your body, and your body will reward you.
Channel Your Inner Yogi
We know we said resting was important (and it certainly is!), but it’s no excuse for skipping out on everyday activities during your period and sleeping the whole day away. Many menstruators swear by yoga as their number one pain reliever. There are many yoga poses and breathing exercises that help relieve cramps.
Gentle exercise of your choice (jogging, stretching, swimming) are great ways to get your blood pumping, some fresh air in your lungs, and feel invigorated. Remember to take it easy and do not overexert yourself.
Using The Best Period Products
Now, this in itself might not necessarily reduce your menstrual cramps, but using the best period products available to you can make for an easier period. The speculation that menstrual cups reduce cramps is based on the light suction seal formed to hold the cup in place.
For some menstrual cup users, they swear that using a cup has helped reduce their menstrual cramps. Whilst this information is largely word-of-mouth, we still think it’s worth mentioning. There has been some anecdotal evidence that cramps can be exacerbated by tampon fibres and the chemicals used in conventional period products.
Zero Cup is proudly made from 100% FDA approved medical-grade silicone. No chemical nasties (like those found in the cotton used in tampons and pads). You can wear your menstrual cup for up to 12 hours without needing to empty it, meaning you can get the best night sleep that you deserve.