Painful periods can mean anything from mild pelvic discomfort to disabling pain. Most women that suffer with this pain on a monthly basis just accept this as normal. Yet periods should not be painful.
Knowing what might be causing your painful periods is important. If you know what causes your pain this helps you to find ways to prevent it from happening. There are two main types of painful periods. Primary dysmenorrhoea is the medical name for painful periods with no pelvic disease. Whilst painful periods due to an underlying disease is secondary dysmenorrhoea.
Primary dysmenorrhoea most often in young women. Especially when they start ovulating during their menstrual cycles. This is the most common type of period pain. It occurs just before or at the beginning of menses. Due to an excess of prostaglandins in the endometrium or uterine lining. Prostaglandins are natural chemicals that occur in the body. In excess they can cause smooth muscle to contract, causing spasms and pain.
I have written about herbal medicines and supplements for primary dysmenorrhoea before. See my post Natural period pain remedies that work.
Secondary dysmenorrhea is due to an underlying gynaecological disease causing pain during menstruation. This type of pain usually occurs in older women with established menstrual cycles. Typically, the pain is getting worse over time.
There are many possible causes of secondary dysmenorrhoea. So it is important to get an accurate diagnosis from your doctor. It may be necessary to have tests or a pelvic examination. Or you may have an ultrasound scan or a laparoscopy to determine the source of the pain.
Primary dysmenorrhoea is a spasmodic condition. That is, the pain is due to cramping of the uterine muscle.
The pain of secondary dysmenorrhoea can also be cramping. Though more often the pain is dull, aching or heavy, with a feeling of pressure. Yet, for more than symptomatic treatment the underlying cause should be addressed. As there can be many possible underlying factors, it is too much to discuss in this post. However, some of the remedies discussed in my previous post may provide some temporary relief.
There are also some topical treatments with proven benefit, especially for primary dysmenorrhoea.
Topical treatments for painful periods
The simplest topical treatment for relief of period pain is the application of heat. This is an age old remedy. The easiest way to apply it is probably by using a covered hot water bottle over the abdomen. A heat pack heated in a microwave, or even an electric heated pad would also be suitable.
In period pain studies, continuous, low level, heat therapy was better than paracetamol. Reducing abdominal cramping and decreasing fatigue. Heat therapy was also shown to be as effective as ibuprofen.
For added benefit, combine heat therapy with a herbal anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic or analgesic. For example, in a hot compress or fomentation.
The simplest method is to prepare a strong infusion or decoction of a suitable herb. Soak a flannel in the liquid. Apply the hot flannel to the abdomen. The temperature should be as hot as can be tolerated. Frequently refresh the compress in the hot liquid as it cools down. Better still, combine with the hot water bottle for a longer and more effective treatment. Repeat the application several times per day, as needed.
Suitable herbs to make a strong infusion or decoction for a soothing hot compress:
ginger – a pungent spice that relieves pain, increases circulation, helps to remove toxins and reduces inflammation
rosemary – an antioxidant rich herb that stimulates the circulation and has anti-inflammatory and antispasmodic actions
chamomile – a gentle pain reliever with antispasmodic and anti-inflammatory action
thyme – a warming herb with antispasmodic action
lavender – an antispasmodic and pain relieving herb
Or make a compress from diluted herbal tincture, infused herbal oil or even castor oil. Simply soak a cotton cloth in the liquid and apply to the skin. Be aware that some herbal oils and castor oil can stain clothing.
Essential oils are a convenient way of applying herbs for relieving period pain. As shown in this study of an essential oil blend in a cream base. The essential oils were able to soothe the period pain. As well as reducing the duration of the pain. The essential oils used in this study were lavender, clary sage and marjoram. In a ratio of 2:1:1 in an unscented cream at 3% concentration.
However, other essential oils may work in the same way. Such as yarrow, Roman chamomile, chamomile, fennel, hyssop, caraway, peppermint, myrtle and sage. Just make sure that any essential oils you use are well diluted.
In addition, I should point out that essential oils and castor oil should not be used during pregnancy.
If you want to use herbal remedies to ease your period pain and need some help with this, click here
Have you used these or other topical treatments for relieving period pain? How effective were the treatments? Let me know in the comments box below.