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Home > Health Library > Menstrual Cramps
You may have painful menstrual cramps (dysmenorrhea) from time to time. Menstrual cramps can occur during or just before your period. The pain from these cramps can range from mild to severe. It can involve the lower belly, back, or thighs. You may also have headaches, nausea, dizziness, fainting, diarrhea, or constipation with your cramps.
During the menstrual cycle, the lining of the uterus produces a hormone called prostaglandin. This hormone causes the uterus to contract, often with pain. If you have severe cramps, you may be producing higher-than-normal amounts of prostaglandin. Or you may be more sensitive to its effects.
Primary dysmenorrhea is a term used to describe painful menstrual cramping that isn't caused by a medical problem. It often starts during the teen years, when periods first start. But the pain often improves as you get older.
Secondary dysmenorrhea is a term used to describe painful menstrual cramping that's caused by a physical problem other than menstruation. Problems that can cause this type of cramping include:
Menstrual-type cramps may occur after a medical procedure. Examples are cautery, cryotherapy, conization, radiation, endometrial biopsy, and IUD insertion.
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Many things can affect how your body responds to a symptom and what kind of care you may need. These include:
You have answered all the questions. Based on your answers, you may be able to take care of this problem at home.
Pain in adults and older children
Based on your answers, the problem may not improve without medical care.
Based on your answers, you may need care soon. The problem probably will not get better without medical care.
Based on your answers, you may need care right away. The problem is likely to get worse without medical care.
It's common to have painful cramps from your period now and then. But you can usually ease cramps with home treatment. Here are some things you can try.
Use a heating pad (set on low) or a hot water bottle on your belly, or take a warm bath. You might find that heat relieves the pain as well as medicine does.
Don't go to sleep with a heating pad on your skin. Put a thin cloth between the heating pad and your skin.
Lie down and put a pillow under your knees. Or lie on your side, and bring your knees up to your chest.
It helps blood flow and may reduce cramping.
It's common to have painful cramps from your period now and then. The good news is that you can usually ease cramps with over-the-counter (OTC) medicine.
Here are some medicines you can try and ways to help get the most benefit out of the medicine you use.
Be safe with medicines. Read and follow all instructions on the label. If you are trying to become pregnant, talk to your doctor before you use any medicine.
Pain medicine works better if you take it before the pain gets bad.
Call a doctor if any of the following occur during self-care at home:
You can help your doctor diagnose and treat your condition by being prepared for your appointment.
Current as of:
November 22, 2021
Author: Healthwise StaffMedical Review: William H. Blahd Jr. MD, FACEP - Emergency MedicineAdam Husney MD - Family MedicineKathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
Current as of: November 22, 2021
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:William H. Blahd Jr. MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine & Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine & Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
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