Just very other month, most women will find themselves crouching on the couch when that time comes. Could be they cannot leave the bedroom simply because they are having a bad day with menstrual cramps, not the average experience as it were, but too much excruciating pain that they choose to remain indoors, closeted because normal routine activities are not possible. Wriggling in bed in pain and trying out different home remedies, an aunt told me this or a friend told me they had this problem and did this and it worked out. It simply is devastating. But what exactly is amiss, what is dysmenorrhea? It is the medical term for painful menstrual cramps, which are caused by uterine contractions. Primary dysmenorrhea refers to common menstrual cramps, while secondary dysmenorrhea results from a disorder in the reproductive organs. Primary dysmenorrhea is common menstrual cramps that are recurrent (come back) and is not due to other diseases. Pain usually begins 1 or 2 days before, or when menstrual bleeding starts, and is felt in the lower abdomen, back, or thighs. Pain can range from mild to severe, can typically last 12 to 72 hours, and can be accompanied by nausea-and-vomiting, fatigue, and even diarrhea. Common menstrual cramps usually become less painful as a woman ages and may stop entirely if the woman has a baby.

What causes dysmenorrhea?

Primary dysmenorrhea is the most common kind of dysmenorrhea. Cramping pain in the lower abdomen (belly) can start from 1–2 days before your period begins and can last 2–4 days. The pain is typically similar from one period to the next. This is what is referred to as typically as

  1. Premenstrual Syndrome. PMS is a condition that affects a woman’s emotions, physical health, and behavior during certain days of the menstrual cycle, generally just before her menses. PMS is a very common condition. Its symptoms affect more than 90 percent of menstruating women.

Symptoms of PMS include menstrual cramps, muscle pain and back pain. 

  1. Another thing that could cause dysmenorrhea is primary dysphoric disease which is an extension of Premenstrual Syndrome with symptoms such as mood swing, sadness and irritability coupled with excruciating muscle pain.
  2. Adenomyosis – A condition where the lining of the uterus grows into the muscle of the uterus.
  3. Endometriosis- This is a disorder in which tissue that lines the uterus, called endometrium, grows outside the uterus. Symptoms may include lower back pain, painful sexual intercourse and painful menstrual cramps.
  4. Uterine Fibroids- These are non-cancerous growths that can grow in a woman’s uterus during their child- bearing age. Symptoms may include lower back pain, menstrual cramps and or leg cramps.
  5. Cervical stenosis – Narrowing of the opening to the uterus.
  6. Pelvic Inflammatory Disease, PID. This is an infection of the female reproductive organs in which the pelvis is or becomes inflamed due to certain conditions or factors that we will not discuss here. If you have PID, it could contribute in one way or the other to having painful menstrual cramps, painful intercourse and of course pelvic pain.

What are the symptoms of dysmenorrhea to look out for?

What we should really know, just like any other condition or disease, symptoms in one person will always be different from other persons but the following are the most common symptoms that cut across different women who suffer from painful menstrual cramps:-

  • Cramping in the lower abdomen.
  • Pain in the lower abdomen and/or lower back.
  • Pain radiating down the legs.
  • Nausea, vomiting and/or diarrhea.
  • Weakness.
  • Fainting.
  • Headaches
  • Management and control of dysmenorrhea

Perhaps you are experiencing painful cramps right now and you are wondering what to do. Here possibly are a few home remedies that have been proven helpful that you could try out. Please note that these do not substitute the need to see your family doctor or your gynecologist. If your symptoms do not ease down, please always seek medical attention.

  • For best relief, you should take ibuprofen as soon as bleeding or cramping starts. You should not take Ibuprofen if you are allergic to it and you should always consult your doctor or physician for an alternative.
  • Place a heating pad or hot water bottle on your lower back or abdomen.
  • Rest when needed.
  • Avoid foods that contain caffeine. Caffeine is a stimulant of the central nervous system and will thus increase the rate of paroxysms, muscle contractions in your uterus and thus should be avoided a s much as possible.
  • Avoid smoking and drinking alcohol.
  • Massage your lower back and abdomen.

Risk factors that could predispose one to having dysmenorrhea

Does Medical marijuana help to alleviate menstrual pain?

I want to talk about this because so many people have been reaching out to me and asking me if they can hit a joint whenever they are experiencing dysmenorrhea. Well, the answer is yes and no. Find out why.

There is no strong evidence at this time to support the benefits or the risks of medical marijuana use for the treatment of menstrual cramps. There are testimonials from women reporting relief from menstrual pain with the use of medical marijuana, but that doesn’t replace scientific evidence.

Studies are needed to determine how effective and how safe medical marijuana is for the treatment of menstrual cramps. More research into the therapeutic action of the non-psychoactive cannabinoid CBD may be promising, although it is unclear as to what role cannabinoid-based therapies will play in the management of dysmenorrhea.

It is unlikely that medical marijuana-based products will be indicated as first- or even second-line therapy for menstrual cramps. Perhaps medical marijuana will eventually be accepted as a third-line treatment for women with severe and debilitating dysmenorrhea. In other words, medical marijuana may be an option for those women, who would otherwise have to go under the knife and lose their uterus in order to get relief.

As much as I am not going to tell you to get naproxen or diclofenac for your painful menstrual cramps, it is important to know that this is something that will definitely affect you for the better part of your sexually-active life and is always important to visit your doctor for a treatment management plan.

Do let us know if there is anything you would like us to address about painful menstrual cramps in our comments section. As always, wishing you great health. 

Be well and healthy.