Most women experience period pain at some stage during their life. It can be a common symptom among menstruating women and part of PMS (Pre-menstrual syndrome). However, as you approach the menopause, period pain may become worse again. One worrying symptom of the menopause is experiencing period pain, but having no periods. However disconcerting this may be, it is a common experience.
Period pain occurs when the muscles in the womb contract. This compresses the blood supply and reduces the level of oxygen in the tissues. This then causes you to experience pain in the lower abdomen, and sometimes in the back and thighs.
The menopause is a time when the hormones that regulate your menstrual cycle, in particular, oestrogen, begin to fluctuate. Naturally, this causes changes to your menstrual cycle, your periods become irregular and eventually stop. Alongside this, you may also experience period pain. However, it is also possible to experience period pain even when you are not having a period. Although it is not known exactly why this is, it is thought to be a result of conflicting messages being sent by your hormones. Eventually, as your hormones settle again, these symptoms should disperse.
It is important to remember that period pain may also be an indication of a more serious health condition, such as endometriosis or ovarian cysts, so if you are concerned, it is important to speak to your doctor.
Generally speaking, if the period pain does not last for more than a day or two and is not too serious, then you should be able to treat it at home.
- Exercise – although the last thing you want to do when suffering from period pain is move, sometimes exercise is beneficial. It helps to stretch and relax your muscles. Additionally, aerobic exercise gets the blood pumping faster around your body, releasing more endorphins, the body’s natural painkiller
- Heat pad or hot water bottle – heat is an excellent relaxant, and applying heat to the tense muscles in the uterus can bring the quickest relief. You need to be careful however, that you do not burn your skin, particularly if you are using a hot water bottle
- Warm bath or shower - much like the heat pads, warm water will help to relax all of your muscles. This will also give you the opportunity to de-stress
- Diet – there are certain foods, such as those which are greasy and fatty, which are likely to cause abdominal bloating and cramps. If your tummy is already feeling tender, you should avoid any foods which are going to make it worse
- Magnesium – this has been shown to help reduce muscle cramps. It acts as a muscle relaxant and also lowers the level of prostaglandins, a group of compounds which cause pain.
Unless your period pain is severe and is interfering with your everyday life, then you should not need to resort to conventional medicines. However, if you are concerned you should speak to your doctor to rule out any underlying health conditions, such as endometriosis or cysts.
Generally, your doctor will suggest pain-killers or the contraceptive pill. You should discuss with your doctor which type of treatment is best for you, as you may find some to be more effective than others.