Menstrual cramps, also referred to as dysmenorrhea, are pains in a woman’s lower abdomen which typically happen when her menstrual period begins and during the menstrual period.
An estimated 40% of all American women today suffer monthly from menstrual cramps.
There are two types of dysmenorrhea – primary and secondary:
- primary dysmenorrhea is the most common type of dysmenorrhea. Cramping pain in the lower abdomen can start from 1–2 days before the period starts and can last 2 to 4 days.
- secondary dysmenorrhea – in this form of dysmenorrhea, the cramping pain is due to an identifiable medical problem, like – uterine fibroids, endometriosis, or pelvic inflammatory disease.
Common symptoms may include:
- a feeling of pressure in the belly;
- cramping pain in your lower abdomen which may be intense;
- loose stools;
- pain which radiates to the lower back and inner thighs;
- upset stomach, occasionally with vomiting;
Painful periods can be caused by:
- pain from endometriosis and/or adenomyosis, mainly if the pain is there for more than 2 days before the period starts;
- pain in the uterine muscle, particularly if the pain is on the first 2 days of your period.
- having an overproduction of prostaglandins, a hormone that influences your womb;
- just starting your period (being under the age of 20);
- having your first child;
- heavy blood flow.
Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS)
Premenstrual syndrome, also referred to as premenstrual tension or ovarian cycle syndrome, refers to the range of emotional and physical symptoms many women experience in the lead-up to a period.
It is most commonly a problem for women in their late 20s to early 40s.
Almost 85 percent of American women experience PMS in the childbearing years. Epidemiologic studies have identified about 20 percent of reproductive-age women as having moderate to severe premenstrual syndrome.
Note – PMS symptoms start 5 to 11 days before menstruation. Once your period starts, they go away.
Physical symptoms may include:
- Abdominal pain;
- Thirst and appetite changes;
- Gastrointestinal symptoms;
- Breast tenderness;
- Skin problems;
- Bloating and weight gain;
- Aches and pains;
- Swelling of the feet or hands;
Emotional symptoms may include:
- Changes in sexual desire;
- Increased nap-taking;
- Angry outbursts;
- Poor concentration;
- Crying spells;
- Social withdrawal;
The exact cause of PMS is not known but it is believed the decline in progesterone levels towards the end of the menstrual cycle affects different types of chemicals in the brain.
Risk factors for premenstrual syndrome are:
- diet – poor eating habits can cause premenstrual syndrome symptoms to intensify;
- depression – women with severe depression in their medical history are at a higher risk for premenstrual syndrome.
There are no specific tests such as a blood test to diagnose premenstrual syndrome.
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Spiritual Meaning of Menstrual Cramps (Dysmenorrhea)
Menstrual cramps are an internal protest against true devotion and an unconscious resistance against femininity, sex, and your partner.
There are often feelings of guilt, and sexuality is regarded as a sin or something dirty.
Being a woman means experiencing and developing the power of devotion, receptivity, and love.
These characteristics represent an important contrast to the power of man that refers to strength and prominence (Yang power), which are so prevalent in today’s world.
Become aware of the beauty and strength you are bound to and accept your femininity.
Spiritual Meaning of Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS)
Premenstrual syndrome may indicate the inability to accept our feminine identity, to abandon ourselves.
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Stop Smoking Tobacco
Smoking tobacco and second-hand smoking are thought to increase the risk of period pain.
In addition, women who smoke have a 50% increase in cramps lasting 2 or more days.
Exercise is an important way to reduce your chances of getting serious diseases like diabetes, keep your weight in check, and stay strong.
You may not feel like doing any physical activity during a painful period, however, staying active can reduce pain, especially aerobic exercise (walking, gentle swimming, or cycling) because it increases blood flow and the endorphins which help counteract the prostaglandins, reducing cramping.
You may use a hot water bottle to the lower abdomen to reduce the symptoms. In addition, you can take a shower or a warm bath.
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Relaxing methods, like – Tai Chi or mindfulness meditation, may help distract you from feelings of discomfort and pain.
In addition, women who practice yoga for a half an hour a day had a considerable improvement in physical fitness and menstrual pain over the control group, according to a 2017 study issued in the Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies.
Moreover, you can make a light, circular massage around your lower abdomen to help reduce pain.
Eliminating caffeine (from coffee, soda, tea, chocolate, and energy drinks) helps many women get relief from menstrual pain.
Note – if you consume caffeine every day, you may require to taper your dose down slowly to avoid withdrawal symptoms.
This tea has pain-relieving properties, according to a study published in the Journal of Agriculture and Chemistry.
During your period you can drink 2 to 3 cups of chamomile tea per day.
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Reducing fat and increasing vegetables and fruits in your regular diet may help ease monthly cramps.
Furthermore, plant-based diets are high in magnesium, an essential mineral that helps to relax muscle tissue. Also, according to the data, a deficiency in magnesium is the main cause of menstrual cramps.
Magnesium rich-foods includes:
- Brazil nuts;
- sesame seeds;
- red kidney beans;
- navy beans;
- pinto beans;
- oat bran;
- pumpkin seeds;
- flax seeds.
Images credit – Getty Images
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