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Everything You Need To Know About Menstrual Cramps

For many women of reproductive age, their menstrual cycles play a major role in both their moods and their comfort. If it’s almost that time of the month, then it’s likely that you’re probably already feeling somewhat anxious about its arrival. For instance, is your cycle going to be extra painful and uncomfortable this month? How long will it last this time? And if you have a history of irregular cycles, you may even be wondering if it’s going to come or not.

It’s hard to plan for the following days, especially if you can’t really predict how bad your cramps are gonna be, and how your cycle will last… that is, if it even makes an appearance in the first place. Well, when that time comes, here are a few things that can help you with knowing how to get rid of period cramps – especially when you have a long day ahead.

The More Common Signs Of PMS

Have you ever watched a cute or sentimental movie and found yourself reacting more emotionally than you normally do? Then, as that spoonful of double chocolate chunk ice cream comes to your mouth, you suddenly realize that your period is coming up in a few days. Well, aside from the physical pain that it brings, our menstrual cycles also affect us emotionally – and not even in a positive way.

In fact, these fluctuating emotions might have even gotten in the way of our plans at least once in our life (like the stress of it alone isn’t enough!). It’s not uncommon to feel lethargic, too, during your cycle. If you’ve been feeling extra emotional, and you’re feeling sluggish or down, focusing on increasing your energy levels can help you better control your pain and your moods. Not today, period!

Dealing With Cramps

While we all have our own nicknames for our periods – such as that “time of the month” or maybe even “shark week” – what tends to vary from person to person is the intensity of their cramps. But what exactly are menstrual cramps? Menstrual cramps, also known as period cramps, are the pain that’s felt in certain areas of your body during your cycle. These areas can include your lower abdomen or even your lower back.

Cramps can happen before or during your period, and the pain level varies from just mild to severe. While common, not everyone experiences this every month. Some don’t even experience it at all! Furthermore, there are several possible causes of period cramps. That said, they are generally caused by contractions of the uterus while shedding your endometrial lining, as well as the passage of menstrual fluids through your cervix.

The Different Kinds Of Period Cramps

You may be surprised to realize that there is more than just one type of cramp. The two main types of menstrual cramps are called primary and secondary cramps. Primary cramps are caused by certain chemicals in our bodies, and they are mostly felt in the lower abdomen or around the lower back area. Over time, the pain felt becomes less severe after giving birth, or as we grow older. This starts during the teenage years and is usually hereditary.

On the contrary, secondary cramps start later in life, and they are caused by conditions such as endometriosis or uterine fibroids. This kind of cramp brings even more severe and longer pain to the individual. As we grow older, the pain also becomes more severe. Oh, and do note that despite their differences, both primary and secondary cramps are still referred to as dysmenorrhea.

What Affects Your Menstrual Cramp Pain Levels?

There are a lot of things that have an effect on how painful your period will be. Most of them are obvious, yet others may be lesser-known or more subtle. Educating yourself about what triggers your cramps and exacerbates the pain, though, can be your first step toward a more painless menstrual cycle.

Age: Research says those that got their period before they turned 11 have a higher risk of experiencing dysmenorrhea. In addition to that, those that are below 30 years old also pose a higher risk.

Diet: Fatty foods may cause your uterus to contract, as can salty foods. This means that you should think twice before giving in to your cravings during that specific week! Sadly, caffeine can also be problematic. Coffee and other caffeinated drinks cause blood vessels to both constrict and decrease blood flow to your uterus.

Exercise: No, we didn’t just say “extra fries.” A healthy exercise regimen is said to play a part in decreasing period cramps. It doesn’t have to be the kind of workout that makes it hard to even catch your breath, either. Just a light and consistent workout will do, such as yoga.

Flow: Those that have heavier cycles are more likely to have period cramps than those that have a lighter flow. Unfortunately, the same goes for those that have an irregular flow.

Genetics: As with everything in life, period cramps are also carried through genetics. We’re looking at you, grandma! Plus, it’s also believed that genetics play a part in the severity of pain of the cramps felt.

Sleep Deprivation: Not having an adequate amount of sleep can cause stress. Those that also feel anxiety, depression, or even just stress two weeks prior are more likely to have period cramps.

Smoking: Not only does it bring your overall health harm, but smoking also worsens your period cramps. Similarly, it also causes blood vessels to constrict and decrease blood flow to your uterus.

Weather: This might sound strange for you (or not), but it is said that colder weather can possibly make your period flow heavier. In turn, this can also make your cramps more painful.

To A Better Menstrual Cycle

Life is full of ups and downs, and we can’t let every bad thing affect us greatly, especially when it’s something as frequent as our menstrual cycles. Instead, we should take the time to learn more about what causes us to feel so crummy during our cycles so we’re better equipped on what to do when it inevitably returns. That way, you’ll know how to deal with those unwelcome cramps – and you can finally say goodbye to period pain and discomfort for good!

About The Authors

Rian Mcconnell

Rian Mcconnell - Rian is a Villanova University graduate who was born in DuBois, Pennsylvania. He graduated from Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia with a medical degree. His residency was at Thomas Jefferson and its associated Wills Eye Hospital, and he finished his education with fellowships in cataract and corneal surgery at the University of Connecticut. He has a vast experience in ophthalmic surgery, with a focus on cataract surgery, corneal transplantation, and laser refractive procedures. He serves on the board of Vision Health International, an agency that provides eye care and surgery to indigent patients in Central and South America, in addition to his surgical practice.

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