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Period Pain Relief: 10 Remedies for Menstrual Cramps You Wish You'd Discovered Earlier

I'm a medical social worker who has worked through menstrual pains often. Read on for some of my tips!

Battling cramps? Here are some solutions!

Battling cramps? Here are some solutions!

Thank your lucky stars if you've never suffered from menstrual pain. Some of my most vivid and haunting memories of my school years were the days I was literally doubled over in pain, vomiting, and yes, even occasionally crying. The moment I began my period I knew I was in trouble. Thankfully, my mother was sympathetic as she also suffered from dysmenorrhea (a fancy term for horrific menstrual cramps!). I would call her from school and tell her I had a visit from the aunt and she was on her way to pick me up.

A friend of my oldest daughter spent the night the other night and reminded me just how awful it could be. The poor girl was miserable, curled up on our bathroom floor completely desperate. Fortunately, I had a few period pain relief remedies up my sleeve from my own experience with years of suffering.

Before I go on, I want to express the importance of seeking proper medical care if you're consistently suffering each cycle. You definitely want to rule out the possibility you have endometriosis. Endometriosis is a painful condition where uterine cells actually grow outside of your uterus. This condition can cause very painful periods and a whole host of other problems, including reproductive issues. Make sure you talk to your doctor if your symptoms are consistently painful and/or progressively worse.

What to Do Before (and After!) You Begin Your Period

There are a few small actions you can take to decrease the chances you'll be immobilized by pain each month. I learned these lessons a bit too late, unfortunately. Some were simply serendipitous discoveries I made. When I began getting my cramps, I would always take Naprosyn, a pain reliever, in the hopes it would miraculously take the edge off my pain. Perhaps I was one of the unfortunate ones, but no medication worked when I was in the thralls of the cramps. In fact, I was so desperate and sick once my mother actually gave me a narcotic she'd been given when she had her hysterectomy. It did nothing except make me feel sicker and even more tired.

1. Take Ibuprofen!

Be sure to talk to your doctor before using NSAIDs. Not only can they irritate the stomach, but they can also cause stomach bleeding and ulcers.

So, here's what I learned and what I highly recommend to you with caution: Start taking a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication (NSAIDS) a few days before you're due to menstruate. The bottom line is that women with painful cramps produce high levels of hormones called prostaglandins. NSAIDs block the production of prostaglandins. Taking them when your cramps begin is not going to do much for you in terms of pain relief, but if you stop the production it can lessen your pain and decrease bleeding by 30%. Generic ibuprofen works just fine.

Oral contraceptives could also help you. Talk to your doctor about this option, because it can take time and experimentation to find one that works well for you.

2. Exercise

Okay, there's no arguing that exercise is good for your body anyway. Getting regular exercise will also help relieve your monthly cramps. Even taking a brisk 20-minute walk at least three times per week (or any aerobic exercise) will help.

Try yoga or pilates! Studies show a correlation between stress and prostaglandin production. Exercise is a great stress reliever and works to reduce these pesky hormones. Exercise also produces natural endorphins, which are your body's built-in painkillers. It can take a while for the body to respond to exercise, so once you start exercising regularly be sure to keep it up for at least eight weeks.

3. Keep Your Diet in Check

What you eat during your period can greatly affect how you feel during your period. Talk to your doctor about recommendations for what will help you feel best. Here is what works best for me:

  • Reduce or completely eliminate caffeine. Caffeine is been shown to exacerbate PMS symptoms.
  • Reduce your salt intake. Salt can contribute to excess water retention and excessive bloating.
  • Eat more fiber. Some evidence supports the positive effects a low fat, vegetarian diet can have on dysmenorrhea: The theory is this high fiber, low fat, plant-based diet can decrease blood estrogen levels and pain.
  • Consume healthy oils. Vitamin E, thiamine, fish oil substitutes, and magnesium are all good for menstruation. Again, some studies have suggested these supplements may aid in decreasing painful periods.

3. Positions When You're Doubled Over in Pain

If you're on your period and already in pain, try a few poses to ease the pain.

Try child's pose! Roll out a mat or find a carpeted space. Take a seated position and stretch forward. Be sure your knees are just over hip-distance apart. Feel the deep stretch in your mid and upper back. Even if moving around doesn't sound great right now, trust me: this will make you feel better. I discovered this pose quite by accident as I fumbled around, miserable and attempting to find any position I could bear. The key here (and your biggest challenge) is to try to remain as relaxed as you can. Take a few deep breaths, and relax your arms, back, abdomen, and legs. The more you can relax, the more you will benefit from the position.

Another great position for a relaxing stretch is the cobra position. Lay gently on your tummy and carefully push up from the ground with your back arched. Be sure your hands are facing forwards.

If the cobra position is too much for you, try the sphinx. It's a gentler stretch and very effective for cramps. The sphinx pose is very similar, but you'll support your arch with your forearms rather than hands.

Both positions will stretch your back, abdominal, and pelvic muscles. Again, attempt to get yourself as relaxed as possible. It's easy to tense up when in pain, so this will be challenging! Concentrate on your breathing and focus on the position.

4. Massage and Tapping Technique

Here are a few methods that are less so empirically proven, but that I've found work for me!

  • The Tapping Method: Okay, I know this may sound strange, but I told you I tried everything to relieve my cramps. This is another method I discovered out of sheer desperation. Honestly, I'm not sure why it works, but I call it my "tapping method." Basically, you will gently tap the area over your uterus with your hands and fingers. It somehow seems to interrupt the pain. Trust me, I'd love to know the medical reason for why this works, but I've yet to happen upon an explanation. The closest I've come is the possibility that it could increase blood circulation. . . Anyway, give it a try. You will want to tap pretty quickly and rhythmically. I guess you can say you will find your own beat!
  • The Massage Method: Yup, another slightly odd one conceived for the same reason above! Anyway, in the same vein as tapping, you will be instead gently massaging the area above the uterus. Use the pads of your fingers and gently massage in circular motions. You may also experience pain in the inner thighs, so try massaging there as well. The two combined seem to assist in breaking the pain cycle. Heck, add some taps, too!

5. Try Applying Heat

There's nothing new about this suggestion, but there's a reason it's so widely recommended. Heat can increase blood flow and reduce pain.

  • Try a heating pad.
  • Try a hot bath—I found this to be the most effective, probably because it relaxes your entire body, which no doubt is very tense from the pain! Add a little lavender to aid in relaxation, too. You can use dried lavender or essential oil.

6. Drink Some Hot Tea

Okay, this is one of my favorite remedies. I like to drink stress-reducing tea! There are a number of brands on the market, but my favorite is Tension Tamer Tea by Celestial Seasonings. I'm telling you, this stuff should be marketed as a period pain remedy. Not only does the actual heat from the tea help, but the ingredients are seemingly a perfect remedy. Here are the ingredients: Eleuthero (also known as Siberian Ginseng), peppermint, cinnamon, ginger, chamomile, West Indian lemongrass, licorice, catnip, tilia flowers, natural lemon flavor with other natural flavors (contains soy lecithin), hops and Vitamins B6 and B12. The peppermint and ginger will soothe your nausea. Eleuthero is known for helping the body better cope with stress. All I can say is I saw a marked improvement in my cramps after a cup of the stuff. Give it a try!

The Secret Ingredient: A Last Ditch Effort

A Message of Hope

My mother used to tell me my cramps would get a lot better after I gave birth. And, I suppose a mother knows best—I no longer experience this debilitating pain. I've been pain-free for 12 years now after the birth of my oldest daughter.

I may get the occasional cramps but they are bearable and they are normally brief unlike the 24 plus hours of misery I used to experience. They no longer interfere with my life or disrupt my obligations.

Hang in there and let me know what you think of my remedies!

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

© 2012 Elsie Nelson


Natasha from USA on July 11, 2016:

I wish I had known all this sooner. I come from a family notorious for having excruciating periods. (My late mother actually had a doctor's note to be excused from taking P.E. class because "mother nature's monthly visit" took so much out of her.)

Warm tea with honey works best for me, but I often have to make friends with Tylenol and stay in bed at least one day.

Jackie Alvarado on May 25, 2016:

I have tried all of these things and sadly my cramps are stronger than any of these! I have super bad cramps to the point where I can't get out of bed! I cry every time I get my period, I cramp a week before my period then 3 days after I start! I don't know how to get rid of them, I've tried EVERYTHING! Not even medicine works for me!! Any more advice??

Kristen Howe from Northeast Ohio on May 03, 2015:

Great tips. This would come in handy, when my "thing" comes around. I've been using tampons for swimming and water aerobics and pads for the rest of the day at the gym. I would keep this in mind, two weeks from here. Voted up for useful!

Carmie Thomas from South Carolina on September 13, 2014:

I've heard drinking pickle juice helps....tried it and it did....

Laura Smith from Pittsburgh, PA on September 02, 2014:

I agree that a lot of these work. I'm trying the tapping suggestion next month. Thanks!

NatalieElie on March 12, 2014:

Those were some amazing suggestions. I practice yoga regularly and helps a lot.

chaossiren9 on April 28, 2013:

thank you so much for posting these I've suffered from horrible cramps for years now. I woke up outta nowhere this morning almost screaming I was in so much pain. Taking anything I had as pain relievers did nothing. I did everything on this page while I was reading each one made my pain less a little more..I am now pain free an hour later relaxing on my couch with tea in hand. so Thank you again!

Shannon Webb on March 07, 2013:

Unfortunately, I am one of the unlucky ones. I had terrible cramp growing up that would keep me from doing anything for a day or two. After I had both of my kids, my periods went from bad to worse. Not very helpful when you have two under three at home.

I spoke with my doctor and she gave me a stronger NSAID than Aleve and told me to do the same thing you did. Take it two times a day a couple days before my period (which is difficult because I am not regular) and three times the day with the MOST pain. I have to say that it changed everything. Instead of being in constant, doubled over pain, it is almost all gone.

Thanks for the other recommendations. I will try a few for the couple of bouts of pain that I still deal with. :)

emily2013 on January 30, 2013:

iGrowing up I suffered from both menstrual cramps & ovulation cramps. Once I had my children the menstrual cramps got better but ovulation pain became worse. I wonder if these suggestions will help with them.

Elsie Nelson (author) from Pacific Northwest, USA on August 18, 2012:

Thanks, belleart! Hope you find the remedies useful...

belleart from Ireland on August 18, 2012:

Love this Hub. I'm definitely going to be trying these out!

Melanie Chisnall from Cape Town, South Africa on May 01, 2012:

This is great advice, thank you!!

Crystal Tatum from Georgia on February 19, 2012:

Great tips, many I didn't know. I'm especially keen to try the Celestial Seasonings - any excuse to relax with a cup of hot tea! I also really like the idea of the tapping method - isn't it amazing that the body responds to such simple treatments? Our body really does want to heal itself!

SarahBodo on January 27, 2012:

I have a friend that is usually in great pain every month. Every time the d-day gets closer, she curses the day, coz it gets so painful that she ca't even eat. Thanks for SHARING these tips. I have posted this hub to her. Thx again.

Chuck Bluestein from Morristown, AZ, USA on January 18, 2012:

I wish that I could leave a link to a webpage about menstruation and diet but I know that I cannot. A woman that I know had endometriosis and had the scraping operation and needed another one. But I helped her to cure it. She tried for years to get pregnant but could not. After it was cured, she got pregnant. It starts with the vegetarian diet, but that could be ice cream and donuts. I guess I need to write a hub about this.

But in the mean time for more power a person can try a raw vegan diet. Donuts and ice cream are not vegan or raw. The theory is that menstruation is the body cleaning out the toxins, but you can beat it to the punch. So this woman stopped smoking, became a vegetarian, ate less food and she would fast, consuming only water for a few days before menstruation. She lost her excess weight.

Also I warned her about something but even though I warned her, she still had to check with me since it goes against all the wrong things that we were taught. I told her that she might have bloodless menstruations. The more toxins, the heavier the blood flow. The less toxins, the less blood or practically no blood just a little discharge.

So her endometriosis was cured and she was having bloodless menstruation for months. Then she got pregnant and gave birth to twins, a boy and a girl. I have been doing yoga since age 12. This also works with PCOS (polycysitc ovarians cysts). What makes me a freak is that I read non-fiction excessively.

I do have a hub about how fruit is the best food. It has a link to a video of a young woman that had a normal diet and was overweight and sickly. She switched to an all raw diet where 97% of what she ate was fruit (if you cannot fast try only eating raw fruit). The video shows the before and after pictures.

In the after pictures she does not look human. She looks superhuman. I write a lot but never used this word before. I described her as being svelte (roughly meaning slim). She loves how she looks so much that she makes all these videos showing off her body and dancing saround. Please note that vegetarians kill plants instead of meat. But people eating only fruit (fruitarian), do not kill any plants. Eating lots of greens can also do wonders for your health.

kikalina from Europe on January 14, 2012:

Thanks for this great hub. I had severe menstrual pains until I had my children! Then menstrual pains somehow vanished!

Elsie Nelson (author) from Pacific Northwest, USA on January 08, 2012:

Thanks for reading and commenting, Debbie. I hope your daughter is spared as well...

Debbie Roberts from Greece on January 08, 2012:

Handy tips, thank you! I'm one of the lucky ones, the only time I suffered any period pains was for a few months after having my coil inserted, but your hub could go towards me being to help my daughter or her friends if ever they need pain relief.

Elsie Nelson (author) from Pacific Northwest, USA on January 06, 2012:

Hi alexandra-t! It is just awful, isn't it? That's really interesting about cold drinks. I know for sure they used to make my cramps worse when I had them. Interesting tip, if anyone tries it, let us know how it works. Thanks for coming by and commenting.

alexandra-t on January 06, 2012:

I suffer from painful menstrual cramps too, and like you said, i vomit and i cry and to make things worse, it's hell when i have to go to work in this state! =(

For the rest of you still suffering from menstrual cramps, here's a tip i've discovered to lessen the pain: Avoid cold drinks (AT ALL) and anything else cold for the week leading up to your period, i've tried this and it really works! so try to drink only warm water and eat hot food for 7 days before your period and during the first 3 days of your period, it works wonders =)

Elsie Nelson (author) from Pacific Northwest, USA on January 06, 2012:

Ruchi, thanks for your comment and I'm glad you've escaped the monthly curse.

Ruchi Urvashi from Singapore on January 06, 2012:

Luckily, I am with good stars who had almost no period pain. However, I have heard a great deal about it. I give myself a break from normal work routine during first period day. I take a day off from work and home. Warm shower and ginger tea really helps. It is a time of self reflection and looking inward.

Elsie Nelson (author) from Pacific Northwest, USA on January 06, 2012:

Thank, Alecia. I appreciate your taking the time to read and comment.

Alecia Murphy from Wilmington, North Carolina on January 06, 2012:

Thank you for the information. I am going to try to remember these tips. Great informative hub!

Elsie Nelson (author) from Pacific Northwest, USA on January 04, 2012:

Wow, Alta... that makes my sound like child's play. I'm glad you got it sorted out, but I'm sorry about what you had to go through.

Cogerson- thanks so much! I'm pleased, truly I am.

Millionaire Tips, I appreciate it. I hope your family finds it useful.

Shasta Matova from USA on January 04, 2012:

This is a great comprehensive list of ways to try to alleviate menstrual pain. I am going to share this with my family.

UltimateMovieRankings from Virginia on January 04, 2012:

Interesting information....just wanted to say congrats on reaching 100,000 views.

Alta5656 from Davao City, Philippines on January 04, 2012:

Yes, I had endometriosis, myomalitis, salphinx, ovarian cyst, I don't remember anymore the other two. Having ultrasound sooner could have saved me the long agony I believe. For years I was mefenamic acid dependent, but persistent pain even after the period scared me.

Elsie Nelson (author) from Pacific Northwest, USA on January 03, 2012:

Thanks so much, Xenonlit. They are just the worst, aren't they? I'm so sorry you've had to suffer as well. I do hope it will help some women. At least they'll know they're not alone, huh?

Xenonlit on January 03, 2012:

I had the worst cramps from month one. You are a saint for helping women and girls who suffer from the truly bad cases. This is so well written and comprehensive that many will be helped. Voted up and awesome!

Elsie Nelson (author) from Pacific Northwest, USA on January 03, 2012:

I hope you don't either, delicate doll!

delicate doll on January 03, 2012:

I hope I never have to suffer as much as you have!

Elsie Nelson (author) from Pacific Northwest, USA on January 03, 2012:

Peanutritious, I feel your pain... Do you find the mefenamic acid eases your cramps at all? I've read about that and wondered what the consensus was. I know I'm not alone, but when you're going through it you feel like no one has ever been so desperate! I can STILL relate to the PMS symptoms, unfortunately. They went away for a while after my kids were born, but they're BACK. My breasts are swollen and feel like two bruises hanging off my chest for 2 weeks out of the month. Yay! Lucky me. For some reason I don't get as pissy though now. Anyway, try some of the suggestions above. You're right, it really is a curse.

Alta, what a nightmare that sounds like! I can relate to the hospitalizations, I wound up in an ER once as well. Was sorely tempted to go on more than one occasion. Anyway, I'm so sorry for your ordeal. Did you have endometriosis or something else? You don't have to answer, of course... :) Anyway, your example is the reason it's so important to discuss the pain with your doctor! Thanks for coming by and sharing your story.

Alta5656 from Davao City, Philippines on January 03, 2012:

I started having menstrual cramps at 17. I have tried exercises,taking food with less salt, taking pain relievers. This went on for years and years and years.. I sometimes collapse due to too much pain.. I cry. I scream. Many times admitted to hospitals but I would just be given injections to stop the pain...and get discharged.

And yes, I was told that the pain would go away after I'd give birth.. At 29 I was not married yet..

An ultrasound test confirmed several abnormalities.. Finally, a total hysterectomy ended all the pain.. at 29. Thanks God. I forgot all the pain now.

Tara Carbery from Cheshire, UK on January 03, 2012:

Thanks for this! I am cursed each month with agonising cramps. I have to lie in a warm bath otherwise i'm doubled up in pain! I dread it every month. On my first day of bleeding, I am no use to anyone and take mefenamic acid to ease the cramps. Even worse is the way I feel for a week before my period. I'm erratic, bursting into tears or screaming! It is truly a curse!