Dysmenorrhea is the term used to describe painful menstrual periods.
The uterus is a muscle. Normally, chemicals called prostaglandins cause the uterus to contract during your period. The contractions push out the build-up of tissue that occurs each month inside the uterus. If the contraction is very strong, it can cause pain. The pain may feel like cramping in the lower abdomen, lower back, or thighs. In severe cases, you may have other symptoms as well. These can include nausea, vomiting, loose stools, sweating, or dizziness.
There are two types of dysmenorrhea: “primary” and “secondary”.
Primary dysmenorrhea is common menstrual cramps that are recurrent (come back) and are not due to other diseases. Pain usually begins 1 or 2 days before, or when menstrual bleeding starts, and is felt in the lower abdomen, back, or thighs. Pain can range from mild to severe, can typically last 12 to 72 hours, and can be accompanied by nausea and vomiting, fatigue, and even diarrhea. Common menstrual cramps usually become less painful as a woman ages and may stop entirely if the woman has a baby.
Secondary dysmenorrhea is pain that is caused by a disorder in the woman’s reproductive organs, such as endometriosis, adenomyosis, uterine fibroids, or infection. Pain from secondary dysmenorrhea usually begins earlier in the menstrual cycle and lasts longer than common menstrual cramps. The pain is not typically accompanied by nausea, vomiting, fatigue, or diarrhea.
What causes dysmenorrhea (pain of menstrual cramps)?
Menstrual cramps are caused by contractions (tightening) in the uterus (which is a muscle) by a chemical called prostaglandin. The uterus, where a baby grows, contracts throughout a woman’s
menstrual cycle. During menstruation, the uterus contracts more strongly. If the uterus contracts too strongly, it can press against nearby blood vessels, cutting off the supply of oxygen to the muscle tissue of the uterus. Pain results when part of the muscle briefly loses its supply of oxygen.
To help relieve pain and cramping, try these tips:
- Rest as needed.
- Apply a heating pad to the lower belly or back as directed. A warm bath or massage to these areas may also help.
- Exercise regularly. Many women find that being more active each week helps reduce pain and cramping.
- Your healthcare provider may advice SUPERGESIC tablets as treatments to help control PAIN AND CRAMPING.