Period pain is a common and unfortunate side effect of menstruation. Approximately 92% of Australian women between 13 and 25 experience period pain (dysmenorrhoea).
Symptoms of dysmenorrhoea range from mild menstrual cramps to intense, constant pain, often in the lower abdomen, that may spread to the lower back and legs. This condition has a considerable impact on a woman’s quality of life, productivity in the workplace, and health.
Depending on the severity of your symptoms, dysmenorrhoea can be challenging to treat, and many patients wonder what causes period pain? From family history to hormonal fluctuation, there are several causes of dysmenorrhoea.
Learn more about what causes period pain and what treatment options are available to help you manage discomfort and take back control of your life.
Symptoms of Dysmenorrhoea
Symptoms of period pain are typically caused by hormonal changes during your menstrual cycle. Women suffering from period pain also commonly experience:
- Abdominal and lower back pain
- Menstrual blood clotting
- Tenderness and swelling in the breasts
- Fainting or feelings of weakness or dizziness
- Digestive problems, constipation, or diarrhea that may escalate to vomit or nausea
These symptoms may only last a day or two or can persist for three or more days but usually subside within the first 24 hours. Irritability, lack of focus, and a shorter attention span are also common premenstrual symptoms.
Are There Different Types of Dysmenorrhoea?
There are two types of period pain: primary and secondary dysmenorrhoea. Primary dysmenorrhoea typically occurs several days before and during menses. It is characterised by regular recurring menstrual cramps.
If you experience painful menses due to a pelvic condition or another medical issue, it is termed secondary dysmenorrhoea. Symptoms of secondary dysmenorrhoea include an irregular menstrual cycle, pain during sex, and bleeding between periods.
What Causes Period Pain?
Because there don’t seem to be any underlying issues in cases of primary dysmenorrhoea, it isn’t fully understood exactly what causes period pain. It is thought that raised levels of prostaglandins cause the uterus to contract more intensely, leading to pain.
An underlying condition causes the secondary type of period pain. Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID), endometriosis, or fibroids can all be reasons that women experience abnormal menstrual cramps.
What Can I Do for Primary Period Pain?
Primary period pain can be effectively managed with the help of your women’s healthcare specialist. Physiotherapy treatments, cervical screenings, sexual health check-ups, and nutritional help are available at True Health Medical. An appointment with a women’s health specialist can help you take control of your pain and ensure that there aren’t any other problems.
Primary dysmenorrhoea can usually be managed using OTC pain relievers, physiotherapy treatments, or anti-inflammatory medications. Other treatments include exercise, bed rest, warm compresses, or relaxation techniques.
Yoga and other physiotherapy treatments such as electrical nerve stimulation to manage period pain have also had some degree of success. Research also suggests that acupuncture may be effective at relieving primary period pain.
What Can I Do for Secondary Period Pain?
Treatment for secondary dysmenorrhoea is dependent on addressing the cause or underlying issue. One of the most common causes of secondary period pain is endometriosis.
Endometriosis is a chronic and progressive condition. What causes period pain in this situation is cells that normally grow in the lining of the uterus (endometrium) begin growing in other areas of the body, normally the pelvis. Because these cells respond to chemical messages from the ovaries, they react in the same way as normal cells within the uterine wall – bleeding and contracting – causing menstrual cramps, discomfort, and pain.
Treatment for endometriosis typically involves hormone therapy, including the use of progestin-only oral contraceptives, gonadotropin-releasing hormone (Gn-RH) agonists and antagonists, or aromatase inhibitors. These medications can help regulate estrogen production by reducing the development of endometrial tissue outside the uterus. If hormonal therapy is unsuccessful, you may need surgery to remove the tissue.
Fibroids can also be a cause of secondary dysmenorrhoea. Treatment of this condition requires care from a physician or a woman’s health specialist and may involve medication, surgery, or non-invasive techniques to remove the fibroid tissue.
Where Can I Get Help?
At home, gentle exercise, such as cycling or swimming, can ease the symptoms of period pain. Stretching, yoga, or pilates can also alleviate some pain and reduce the stress associated with it. Relaxation techniques such as these help to ease the cramps and improve circulation, flexibility, and sleeping patterns.
At True Health Medical Practice, women’s health is one of our top priorities. We take a proactive approach to your health that focuses on prevention and early intervention.
We’ll also teach you as we go so you can understand more about your own body and what you’re going through. Whether you’ve been experiencing abnormally painful periods, an eating disorder, pregnancy, or simply need an annual exam, we’ll take measures to ensure you get the best care and service you deserve.
Call us today on (02) 9358 5221.
Note: Any surgical or invasive procedure carries risks. Before proceeding, you should seek a second opinion from an appropriately qualified health practitioner.
Some physiotherapy treatments may relieve menstrual pain in women with primary dysmenorrhea: a systematic review
The prevalence and risk factors of dysmenorrhoea
Some physiotherapy treatments that may relieve menstrual pain