Menstrual cramps : Types, Causes, and Treatment

Research Based
Medically reviewed by - Dr. Tez Pratap Singh, MD Written by - Dr. Shilpa R


What is a Menstrual cramp?

Menstrual cramps are lower abdominal pains radiating to the lower back, hips, or thighs. Women typically experience it during or right before their periods. People experience it differently, and occasionally the same person experiences it differently each period Some women might just find the discomfort frustrating, while others get period cramps that are so severe that they may be unable to function normally for a few days every month. This article describes the several types of menstruation pain and their causes, symptoms, treatment, and complications.

Menstrual cramps are lower abdominal pains radiating to the lower back, hips, or thighs.

Key Facts

  • Other names may include dysmenorrhea, menstrual pain, and period pain.
  • The term dysmenorrhea is derived from an old Greek word that translates to difficult monthly flow.1Overview| Researched based study from
  • Approximately 80% of women endure painful periods during the teenage years.
  • Approximately 40% of those had severe menstrual cramps 1Overview| Researched based study from


Signs and symptoms of Menstrual cramps

Menstrual cramps in an individual may show the following symptoms:

  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Bloating
  • Constipation
  • Vomiting
  • Indigestion
  • Irritability
  • Low back pain 2Symptoms| Researched based study from
  • Tiredness
  • Dizziness


Types of Menstrual cramps

There are two types of menstrual cramps

Primary dysmenorrhea

  • Commonly occurs in adolescent girls when they get their first period and lasts the rest of their lives.
  • It is entirely normal and causes many women only minor monthly discomfort.

Secondary dysmenorrhea

  • Begins after age 25, and it has an underlying medical reason.
  • Adults who begin to have period pain should immediately see a doctor.3Types| Researched based study from


What causes Menstrual cramps or periods of pain?

Causes of primary dysmenorrhea

  • Menstrual cramps often occur when the uterus tightens due to a prostaglandin chemical.4Causes| Researched based study from
  • If the uterus contracts excessively, the blood supply to the muscle tissue may be reduced.
  • A muscle feels pain when its oxygen supply is interrupted for a brief time.
  • Some women experience more significant pain during their periods than others, possibly due to more muscular contractions due to a buildup of prostaglandins in their bodies.

Causes of secondary dysmenorrhea may include the following medical condition

  • Endometriosis
  • Adenomyosis
  • Uterine fibroids
  • Cervical stenosis
  • Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)
  • Uterine polyps
  • Intrauterine contraceptive devices 5Causes| Researched based study from


  • A condition where tissues similar to uterine lining forms outside the uterus in the ovaries, fallopian tubes, or pelvic tissues.6Causes| Researched based study from


  • The uterine lining tissue intrudes on the uterus’s muscular walls.

Uterine fibroids

  • Are structures grown inside, outside, or within the uterine walls.

Cervical stenosis

  • Some women may have too narrow opening of the cervix that does not allow menstrual flow, which painfully increases uterine pressure.

Pelvic inflammatory disease

  • Happens mainly due to sexually transmitted infections.

Uterine polyps

  • An abnormal growth that extends from the uterine lining and takes up areas as small as possible or as big as the uterine cavity and contains glands, stroma, and blood vessels.

Intrauterine devices (IUD)

  • Tiny contraceptive implants placed inside the uterus to prevent pregnancy.

Risk factors

What are the risk factors?

Things that could make someone more prone to experience menstrual cramps

  • Hereditary factor – The risk is increased by having a mother who has experienced painful periods.
  • Age – women under 30 are more impacted than older women.7Risk factors| Researched based study from
  • Early menarche – women with periods that begin before age 11.
  • Smoking – increases the likelihood of having pain throughout their periods.
  • Emotional Stress, anxiety, or depression – may significantly increase the chance of painful periods.5Risk factors| Researched based study from
  • Drinking alcohol – especially during periods might make menstruation discomfort worse.5Risk factors| Researched based study from
  • Obesity – women who are overweight may have period pain more frequently.
  • Heavy bleeding – women with more severe and longer menstrual flow are said to experience more pain.
  • Pregnancy problems – A woman is more likely to experience painful periods if she experiences pregnancy issues like loss or ectopic pregnancy.


Diagnosis of Menstrual cramp

A physical examination, which includes a pelvic exam, will be done by the doctor after reviewing the patient’s medical record.

Pelvic exam

  • Looks for abnormalities involving the reproductive organs.
  • Looks for symptoms of infection.

Following that, he may recommend a few tests, for instance

  • Ultrasound – uses sound waves with high frequencies to visualize the internal organs, such as the fallopian tubes, ovaries, uterus, and cervix.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) – creates precise images of the body’s organs and soft tissue structures using powerful magnets and radio waves.
  • Laparoscopy – this procedure allows the doctor to examine the abdomen and pelvis, where they can frequently find abnormal growths.
  • Hysteroscopy – is performed to inspect the uterus’ inside and cervical canal visually. It makes use of a viewing tool introduced into the vagina.8Diagnosis| Researched based study from


Treatment of Menstrual cramps

The intensity of the problem, its etiology, the person’s tolerance to specific medicines and therapies, and personal preferences all influence treatment for menstrual cramps.

The following techniques could be used to treat period pain

Medicines to treat menstrual cramps

Typically, the first step in treating cramps during a period is:

  • Prostaglandin-targeting medications – such as Ibuprofen and naproxen, are available over the counter and may be used to reduce the intensity of cramps and instantly relieve discomfort during menstruation.
  • Prescription nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications – that suppress prostaglandins are also available.9Treatment| Researched based study from
  • Other painkillers, such as acetaminophen, may also be administered.
  • Birth control treatments, including hormones in the form of pills, injections, implants, patches, or vaginal rings, are administered to alleviate painful periods10Treatment| Researched based study from
  • Supplemental vitamins – include omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin E, vitamin B-6, thiamine, and magnesium may ease period cramps.6Treatment| Researched based study from

Surgical procedures for treating period cramps

The following procedures may be used to treat endometriosis or fibroids-related menstrual cramps surgically to alleviate their symptoms:

  • Endometrial ablation – a technique to destroy the uterine lining. 11Treatment| Researched based study from
  • Endometrial resection – a surgical operation to remove the uterine lining.8Treatment| Researched based study from
  • Hysterectomy – a procedure that removes the uterus surgically if other treatment options are ineffective and a person does not want to become pregnant.

How to relieve bad Period cramps at home?

Following are some changes in lifestyle and home remedies that may relieve menstrual cramps:

  • Get adequate sleep at nights.
  • Regular physical activity, including sex, can help some women’s menstrual cramps.5Treatment| Researched based study from
  • Consume more protein while reducing coffee and sugar intake.
  • A warm shower or a hot bath may help to relieve the discomfort.
  • Applying a heat patch or heating pad to the lower belly may relieve cramping.
  • Make an effort to relieve the Stress.
  • Try massaging the lower abdomen.

Menstrual cramps can be managed using alternative methods

Various complementary therapies may include:

  • Yoga
  • Acupuncture 5Treatment| Researched based study from
  • Acupressure
  • Exercises for breathing
  • Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation, also known as TENS.12Treatment| Researched based study from
  • Herbal medicine – comprising fennel, cinnamon, and other herbs in the form of tea made from herbs may provide some comfort from menstrual cramps13Treatment| Researched based study from


Prevention of Menstrual cramps.

Prevention of Menstrual cramps

Menstrual cramps cannot be prevented, but by taking a few simple precautions, one can lessen their severity:

  • Consuming a healthy, balanced diet.
  • Consistent exercise.
  • Upkeep a healthy weight.
  • Give up smoking.
  • Abstain from alcohol.
  • Using breathing and mindfulness exercises.


Complications associated with Menstrual cramps

While menstrual cramps do not typically result in other medical issues, they can

  • Interfere with social, professional, or academic activities.
  • Significantly reduce the quality of life.

Menstrual cramps can be complicated by specific disorders, such as

  • Fertility issues may result from endometriosis.
  • The danger of an ectopic pregnancy is increased by the possibility that pelvic inflammatory illness will scar the fallopian tubes.14Complications| Researched based study from
  • Periods could get heavier and last longer.
  • Sexual intercourse can be painful.


Prognosis of Menstrual cramps

Cramping and pain associated with menstruation begin one to three days before, reach peak intensity 24 hours into the period, and then significantly reduce two to three days later. They do not persist beyond that. One should see a doctor if the pain persists for an extended duration, gets worse, or if the person is over 25 and only recently started to suffer period cramps. Primary dysmenorrhea may improve with age, especially after having a child. Other medical issues might cause menstrual pain, which does not improve with age or childbirth and needs to be evaluated by a doctor as quickly as possible.

Disclaimer: The user acknowledges that this article's information is being offered for informational purposes only. Every attempt has been made to guarantee that the article is informational and correct. If they have any doubts or questions about their health, we firmly advise our readers to visit a doctor or other healthcare professional.

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