How to deal with cramps when that time of the month rolls around
Experts tell Liz Connor their tips for easing period pain and bloating
If you're a woman, it's common to feel pain when you menstruate - millions of us around the world suffer from period cramps every month. But that doesn't make dealing with the agony of your monthly cycle any easier, especially when you add the unpleasant side effects of nausea, vomiting and regular toilet trips into the mix.
"Just because it's a regular and common occurrence, doesn't mean you should put up with the pain caused by menstrual cramps," GP Dr Dawn Harper says. "Being proactive can enable you to effectively manage your pain, so you can carry on with your day."
But how can you stop period pain in its tracks? We asked Dr Harper and Mr Jullien Brady, gynaecology consultant at BMI The Manor Hospital, to give us their expert-approved tips.
1. Give yourself an abdominal massage
A light, circular massage around your lower abdomen can help reduce pain, and you could try some stretches too.
Lie on your back with your legs straight out, bend one knee and pull it up to your chin. Hug your knee with both hands and hold the position, then repeat on the other side.
2. Reach for the heat relief
Using a hot water bottle on your tummy can help reduce pain from menstrual cramps. The heat helps to relax the abdominal muscles that are contracting during your period.
As a relaxing alternative, opt for a warm bath. Applying heat to your body twice a day can help make a big difference.
3. Avoid triggers
Certain foods and drinks may actually make the cramps worse.
Although it can be tempting to reach for the chocolate or wine, this may actually make the pain more acute for some women.
If you notice that anything does seem to make it worse, then try and avoid your triggers if possible.
4. Effective pain relief
Over-the-counter oral pain relief is a go-to option for period pain.
There are now non-addictive options available in pharmacies, to help you step up your pain relief whilst enabling you to carry on with your day, with as few side effects as possible.
Products that combine paracetamol and ibuprofen in a single convenient tablet (Combogesic, £3.99, Boots) mean you get the tried and tested double-action pain relief, as well as a more convenient dosage schedule. Speak to your pharmacist who can advise on the best treatment plan.
5. Consider oral contraceptives
If menstrual pain regularly cripples you, then you may wish to consider taking an oral contraceptive.
While formulated for birth control, these pills can also help lighten blood flow, lessen nausea and reduce stomach pain. Your GP is the best person to speak to about your options.
6. Try Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS)
A TENS machine is a small battery-operated device that delivers a mild electrical current to your muscles, which can help reduce pain by affecting the way pain signals are sent to the brain.
7. Get moving
It might sound the last thing you feel like doing, but gentle exercise can help distract you from feelings of pain and discomfort.
It also stimulates the production of endorphins, which are the body's natural painkillers. Take a walk, go for a light jog or do some yoga stretches in the comfort of your home - whatever works for you.
Remember you should see your GP if you have severe period pain, if your normal pattern changes to become heavier or irregular, if you get bleeding between periods or if you experience pain during sex.