Dysmenorrhea (menstrual cramps) usually occurs just before and/or during the menstrual cycle. These cramps can range from slight discomfort to severe pain that interferes with normal activities. Severe menstrual cramps are not a normal part of menstruation and can be caused by an underlying medical condition. Addressing the cause of the pain can reduce or even eliminate the cramps. Menstrual cramps that are not caused by another condition tend to decrease with age and sometimes improve after childbirth.
Menstrual cramps are typically experienced as a feeling of pain or pressure in the lower belly, but low back pain, hip and leg pain, and even headache, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea can accompany cramps.
During menstruation the uterus contracts to help expel the endometrial lining. Prostaglandins, which are involved in pain and inflammation, trigger muscle contractions in the uterus. Higher levels of prostaglandins are associated with more severe cramps.
If menstrual cramps start disrupting everyday activities, symptoms are getting worse, and/or severe cramps have just started after age 25 it is time to consult a healthcare practitioner.
Some conditions that can cause severe menstrual cramps are endometriosis (when the tissue that lines the uterus grows outside of it), adenomyosis (when the lining of the uterus begins to grow into the walls of the uterus), fibroids (non-cancerous growths) in the uterus, and pelvic inflammatory disease (an infection of the female reproductive organs).
Risk factors for menstrual cramps include menarche (first menstrual period) before age 11, menorrhagia (heavy periods), metrorrhagia (irregular menstrual cycles), family history of cramps and smoking.
Diagnosis of underlying conditions that may be causing severe menstrual cramps can include pelvic ultrasound, other imaging tests like MRI, and laparoscopy (an exploratory surgical procedure to look at the pelvis with a camera).
Treatment for menstrual cramps can range from over-the-counter pain relievers and anti-inflammatories to hormonal treatments like birth control to surgery for endometriosis, fibroids or adenomyosis (which usually requires a hysterectomy, or removal of the uterus).
Bio-Touch has been shown to reduce pain and stress and can be a powerful complement to any other treatments for menstrual cramps.