Let me start by saying whilst period pain is common it is not something that you should have to endure.
I would also like to differentiate between two types of period pain. Now I want to say normal period pain but that just doesn’t seem to fit after what I just said about period pain not being normal. So let’s call this first type of period pain common period pain.
Common Period Pain
Common period pain, medically known as dysmenorrhea, is usually felt as a cramping in the lower pelvis and sometimes in the lower back. This usually occurs in the couple of days leading into your period and for the first couple of days. For many it’s tolerable and doesn’t cause any disruption to day – to day life. Or could be easily addressed with some ibuprofen.
Common period pain is caused through the presence of prostaglandins in the menstrual fluid. Now these prostaglandins are the bodies way of dealing with injury and illness. They are released when the uterine wall begins to break down just before we have our period. So makes total sense that these guys should be hanging around ready to begin the repair of the uterus wall. The problem comes when there are too many prostaglandins. These prostaglandins cause the uterine wall to contract which reduces the blood flow resulting in the uterus to becoming de-oxygenated which is responsible for the painful cramps.
Severe Period Pain
The second type of pain is what is often referred to as secondary dysmenorrhea or in this case severe period pain. This pain goes beyond the cramps and feels more like a burning, stabbing, throbbing pain. The pain is not just isolated to the lower pelvis and back. It often radiates down the legs and up the back. Severe period pain can also be felt outside of the period. It doesn’t respond well to ibuprofen and often impacts the ability to perform day to day activities like school and work. Those with severe period pain will also experience sweats and vomiting when the pain becomes too great.
Severe period pain is a very strong indicator of conditions such as endometriosis or adenomyosis. So please don’t let anyone tell you it’s just period pain and there is nothing they can do about it. Because these conditions can be treated As a Endo Warrior myself I know this to be true. It has also been true for many of my clients.
In the case of endometriosis the severe pain is driven through a loop of chronic inflammation driven by a faulty immune system. If you would like to dive more into the underlying influences of endometriosis I have written a blog and recorded a podcast. With adenomyosis this is where bits of your uterine lining has grown into the muscles of the uterus.
Addressing Common Period Pain
As I mentioned earlier a common treatment of period pain is ibuprofen. This works to block those prostaglandins thus relieving the pain. The occasional use of this is not something to be concerned about. However if you are having to pop ibuprofen on the regular for your pain this needs to be addressed. Firstly because it could be a sign of something more than just period pain. Secondly ibuprofen is quite detrimental to your digestive health, which will circle back to impact your period.
The other common medical treatment for period pain is hormonal contraceptives. These are used to balance out the hormone production in the body. I am personally not a fan of hormonal contraceptives. You can find out why here.
Neither of these treatments do anything to address the underlying cause of what is happening.
Which brings me to treating the underlying cause. Many people could say this is the natural way but honestly I just think it’s the common sense way. In any condition why would you not go to the source?
One reason those prostaglandins can be higher is due to a higher level of estrogen relative to progesterone as you lead into your period. This balance can be thrown off a number of different ways
- Estrogen is in excess
- Progesterone is being under produced
- A combination of both
Understanding which of these is driving your period pain is important so the correct treatment can be put in place.
The best news is that by following some simple diet and lifestyle changes you can notice a real difference in any common period pain you are experiencing. More often than not my clients find relief within their first cycle with a pain free cycle within 3 months.
Please don’t let period pain be normalised. You can experience the beauty that is your period without the pain that accompanies it.