MN, M.D.: What Can I Do For Menstrual Cramps When Over-The-Counter Meds Don’t Work?

January 21, 2013  |  

Q: Hello doctor, I have the worst cramps in the history of cramps when I’m on my period. Over the counter medicine doesn’t cut it anymore. What do you recommend?

A: About 50 to 90 percent of women who still have menstrual cycles experiences this type of pain, so a lot of us can relate to your pain!  Great news, though, as you increase in age, some of you may stop experiencing cramps all together.  Until then, here is the 411 on painful menstrual cramps.

What causes this? Well, hormones in your body, the same ones that happen during labor, are the major culprits. In fact, during the time you are experiencing this pain, you are actually having contractions! The same kind of contractions you would have when giving birth to a child, in fact, so this is a normal thing.

Menstrual cramps usually go away with over-the-counter medications like ibuprofen (Advil is its brand name), naproxen (Aleve, Naprosyn) or ketoprofen (Orudis).  It is best to start using these medications before the start of your menstrual cycle and continue as needed. If one kind of medication does not relieve the pain, then try another because these medications don’t work the same in everyone. Placing a heating pad on your lower belly or massaging the back and lower belly can also help.  Exercising on a regular basis has also been found to help in reducing menstrual cramps. Yoga, acupuncture, and even having orgasms (you heard right) may also help.

What happens if I have tried all that and it still does not go away?  Well, this may not be simple cramps then. Other conditions can be causing this extreme pain, like an infection, fibroids, or even the use of intrauterine devices (IUDs). Symptoms like pain with sex or abnormal bleeding usually are signs that this is not simple cramps. In this case, you should talk with your doctor about this. Your doctor can examine you and conduct tests to look for reasons why you are experiencing such pain; he or she can also prescribe medications like contraceptives or other pain medications to stop and/or relieve the cramps.

Disclaimer: The information contained here are intended solely for the general information of the reader. It is not to be used for treatment purposes, but rather for discussion between you and your physician. Please consult your physician for further information in regards to your own general care.  Knowledge is power! Be informed.


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