I am basically a master cramper. Not that that is a bragging point… but it has given me some experience over the years as to how to curb this particular period pain. As I have mentioned numerous times before, I was diagnosed with endometriosis after 14 years of incredible period pain which leaked into my daily life leaving me virtually bedridden before having LAPEX surgery with an endometriosis specialist (that I found through Nancy’s Nook Endometriosis Education, a Facebook group and NOW a website).
DISCLAIMER: these are just tips to help ease regular period cramping that I have picked up over the years. If your cramping lasts more than a few days and your periods seem “abnormal” (see my What is a “Normal” period? Blog post), please see a doctor as I am NOT a medical professional and never ever ever ever ever have claimed to be. I also cannot diagnose you or speculate on what your issues are. These are simply my personal life hacks for period cramps. Something else might work perfectly for you and you may disagree with what I have on my list! What works for me might not work for you and what works for you might not work for me.
Taking a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID), like Advil or Aleve, before your period starts suppresses your prostaglandin from producing hormones and helps curb period cramping. According to this scientific study, it curbed the pain of 31 out of 100-period havers. It is important to remember NSAIDs cannot be taken regularly because they do cause stomach problems and have other side effects. If this does not work for you (like it didn’t for me) then you might need to seek greater expertise. Ask your doctor before starting any medication, including NSAIDs.
Heating your uterus while on your period loosens the muscles, increases blood flow, and helps reduce cramping. There are lots of different heating pads on the market that can help your individual needs. I used a series of homemade rice socks for years until one day I burned one in the microwave and couldn’t stand the smell. Then I turned to an electric one. Pick what works for your lifestyle!
Personally, I have found a good probiotic works wonders! Magnesium and Tumeric are also part of my daily routine. None of these things will “cure” cramps but they can help reduce inflammation and cramping which can also help at that time of the month. Ask your doctor before taking supplements for menstrual cramps.
I have used two TENS/IFC units and while there is a TENS unit with two sticky pads called the Livia that is for menstrual cramps, I prefer a four pad IFC unit myself (you might have to get it through your health insurance in the US). Either one does the job of sending electronic signals to your back/stomach (wherever the pads are placed) and helps scramble the pain signals being sent to your brain. These units will not “turn off” the pain, but they will help your brain while you are in pain.
Eucalyptus oil / Icy Hot back patches
Mixing eucalyptus essential oil with a little lotion is a more natural way to get that icy-hot feeling of one of those icy-hot back patches. Those also work if you have to be somewhere all day and don’t want to smell like a Eucalyptus tree. I personally preferred the essential oil to the patches.
Eating Anti-inflammatory foods
Anti-inflammatory foods are an excellent way to reduce inflammation in your bowls/body which in turn, can ease cramps. I definitely recommend the FODmap diet if you are looking for a way to figure out what inflames your specific body (all bodies are different and respond differently).
People always say exercise helps and if it does: go for it! However, for me, I found it made things infinitesimally worse. Therefore I say just lay down! Lie down on your back, take it easy, put your feet up, and try to relax with a good book or movie.
Using external period products
Pads and period undies are the way to go! Your body is cramping and is unhappy: get that tampon/menstrual cup out of you and let your cervix relax and do its thing.
I tried both while searching for answers to my period pain and I would just like to say… if you are at the point of seeking either, they can definitely be a supplemental way to experience relief, but you might be at the point where you need to seek a period pain specialist. Find someone more knowledgeable near you in the facebook group Nancy’s Nook Endometriosis Education.