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Oh no! It’s that time of the month again. Why on earth do ladies have to menstruate and go through so much pain? Why can’t Mother Nature just pop in, give you a thumbs up saying “You are alright darling, you are not pregnant” instead of having to endure days of bleeding accompanied  with the almighty menstrual cramps? Most of us have been in these shoes before as a lady going through severe menstrual cramps, as a brother watching his sister in pain, as a mother, father, husband, friend or worse still, as an helpless, wide-eyed boyfriend who has no clue as to what to do to help his girl.

Menstrual cramps are caused by contractions in the uterus. Each month, the uterine lining builds up in preparation for pregnancy. If no fertilization occurs, the thickened uterine lining is no longer required and as such is shed; this shedding is the menstrual process.

As the lining sheds, the uterus contracts to help release it, and this is where cramps come in. If the uterus contracts too strongly, it can press against nearby blood vessels and cut off the supply of oxygen to the muscle tissues in the uterus which results in pains. Menstrual cramps can be mild or very severe as the case may be. The following are tips to consider to reduce severe menstrual cramps.

1. Diet is key
Avoid sugar, processed foods, salty foods and anything with preservatives which can increase water retention and thus menstrual pain. Foods that contain a higher ratio of omega-6 fatty acids as compared to omega-3s, such as vegetable oils, corn, soybean oil, or margarine should also be avoided. Caffeine and alcohol causes blood vessels to constrict, which can cause increased cramping. If you are prone to cramping, avoid coffee for a week prior to your period for best results.

2. Stay hydrated
Of course, you can’t drink just anything and hope it will cure your period pains, but there are a few beverages you could try. Keeping hydrated with lots of water is a good place to start. Water actually prevents the body from retaining water, and it also prevents bloating. warm or hot water increases blood flow to the skin and helps in relaxing cramped muscles. Cucumbers, celery and berries are also on point.

3. Turn up the heat
Applying a heating pad, heat wrap, or hot water bottle to your abdomen works wonders for relieving menstrual cramps. Heat helps muscles relax. A warm bath may be just the thing you need to soothe pain and relax tense muscles.

4. Quality sleep cannot be overemphasized
Practice good sleep hygiene to keep painful menstruation symptoms at bay. This involves going to bed at about the same time every night. Establish and stick to a nightly routine to give your body the signal that it’s time for sleep. The routine may involve things like listening to soothing music, enjoying a cup of tea, or taking a warm bath. Getting adequate sleep to promote overall health will help you manage monthly menstrual symptoms.

5. Herbal Treatment
Black cohosh, cramp bark, turmeric, and chasteberry are a few herbs that have been used. They are effective for pain relief and decreasing inflammation. Herbs may interfere with the action of some medications or decrease their effectiveness.

6. Touch Brings Relief
Massaging your abdomen for as little as 5 minutes a day may be able to help relieve menstrual cramps. Massage encourages blood flow. Massaging cream containing essential oils like  sage, lavender, and marjoram has additional benefits for the body. These oils contain compounds that have been reported by many to help relieve pain and soothe dysmenorrhea.

7. Over-the-Counter Remedies
For severe menstrual pain, over-the-counter remedies like ibuprofen, aspirin, and naproxen sodium can reduce menstrual cramps. Keep your pain relievers of choice at home, work, and in the car so you have them on hand when you need them. Be careful with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Do not rely on drugs because they have their side effects such as reduced flow or heavy flow.

8. Get Moving to Relieve Symptoms
Many women find that exercising helps relieve menstrual cramps. Exercise releases endorphins, brain chemicals that promote well being. Whether you enjoy walking, running, or swimming, it’s safe to participate in all of these activities during your period. Curling up in a place can help focus the mind on the pain you feel.

If you have extremely painful menstruation, it is important to talk to your doctor about this.  You may be experiencing secondary dysmenorrhea which means there is another health issue causing or contributing to the painful menstruation, for example, endometriosis, ovarian cysts, or uterine fibroid. There may also be other factors that are causing pain that may also need to be ruled out, such as constipation, Urinary Tract Infection, etc. While it is always easier to treat pain when it is happening rather than address the root cause, it is very important to find out what is causing the pain in your body.

That wide-eyed helpless boyfriend isn’t as helpless now! You can share methods you use to relieve menstrual cramps in the comment box.

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