Dysmenorrhea: Painful Menstrual Periods or Cramps

What causes painful period cramps (dysmenorrhea)?

Painful menstrual cramps or dysmenorrhea usually stem from muscle contractions of the uterus. The first step in assessing dysmenorrhea is to find out if there are specific causes that could be causing menstrual cramps.

Primary dysmenorrhea is menstrual pain in the absence of other problems, while secondary dysmenorrhea indicates other issues such as endometriosis, infection, or adenomyosis. 

Depending on the cause of the painful period cramps, medication may be necessary. However, there are also certain lifestyle modifications that can help treat dysmenorrhea without medication. Here are a few:


Studies have found that physical activity may ease the pain of menstrual cramps. The authors of this study concluded that: ".. evidence suggests that exercise, performed for about 45 to 60 minutes each time, three times per week or more, regardless of intensity, may provide a clinically significant reduction in menstrual pain intensity.."


Acupuncture and acupressure have been used in China to relieve pain for more than 2,000 years. Some studies have found that acupuncture effectively relieves menstrual cramps. One study of acupressure showed it had success reducing pain

Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS)

A TENS device raises the threshold for pain signals and stimulates the release of endorphins, your body's natural painkillers. In studies, TENS has been found more effective than placebo in relieving the pain associated with menstrual cramps. This study, for example, concluded that ".. TENS is a safe and well-tolerated electrophysical therapy that may be effective for relieving pain in menstrual cramps."

Dietary supplements

A number of studies have indicated that vitamin E, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin B1 (thiamine), vitamin B-6 and magnesium supplements may effectively reduce menstrual cramps. In this study, magnesium was found to be effective in preventing painful menstruation (dysmenorrhea).

Whenever you have pain, you should consult your doctor and search for the underlying cause. Together you can devise a treatment plan.

Read More:
Is Your Menstrual Cycle Normal?
Calculate: When Will I Get My Next Period?
Tracking My Period Is Annoying, Do I Have To Do It?

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