Period pain can alter the structure of the brain, research has shown.
Scientists who studied a group of women sufferers found evidence of dramatic reshaping, with some brain areas shrinking and others increasing in size.
Previous research had suggested menstrual cramps can trigger abnormal brain metabolism. The new findings indicate the changes are long lasting, since they are seen even between painful episodes.
The affected parts of the brain consisted of “grey matter” (GM) — brain tissue made up of nerve cell bodies as opposed to fibres. They are involved in the transmission and control of pain, as well as emotional responses. Some of the changes are thought to inhibit pain while others may make it worse.
Researchers in Taiwan carried out brain scans on 32 patients with the period pain disorder primary dysmenorrhoea (PDM) and the same number of healthy women, and compared both sets of findings. Lead scientist Professor Jen-Chuen Hsieh, said: “Our results demonstrate that abnormal GM changes were present in PDM patients even in the absence of pain. This shows that not only sustained pain but also cyclic occurring menstrual pain can result in longer-lasting central changes.”