Dealing with cramps every month can be as frustrating as it is painful. Luckily, there are a many remedies that might help you relieve period cramps. It’s important to remember that these techniques won’t always work, especially for chronic conditions, but they can offer relief for mild to moderate period pain.
1. Drink more water
Bloating can cause discomfort and make menstrual cramps worse. Drinking water can reduce bloating during your period and alleviate some of the pain it causes. Also, drinking hot water can increase blood flow throughout your body and relax your muscles. This can lessen cramps caused by uterine contractions.
2. Enjoy herbal teas
Herbal teas have anti-inflammatory properties and antispasmodic compounds that can reduce the muscle spasms in the uterus that cause cramping. Drinking chamomile, fennel or ginger tea is an easy, natural way to relieve menstrual cramps. Plus, herbal teas can have other benefits like stress relief and helping with insomnia.
3. Eat anti-inflammatory foods
Some foods can offer natural relief for cramps and they taste great. Anti-inflammatory foods can help promote blood flow and relax your uterus. Try eating berries, tomatoes, pineapples and spices like turmeric, ginger or garlic. Leafy green vegetables, almonds, walnuts and fatty fish, like salmon, can also help reduce inflammation.
4. Skip the treats
While a brownie or french fries might sound delicious, foods high in sugar, trans fat and salt can cause bloating and inflammation, which makes muscle pain and cramps worse. Grab a banana or another piece of fruit to fight sugar cravings, or go for unsalted nuts if you want something more savory.
5. Reach for decaf
Caffeine causes your blood vessels to narrow. This can constrict your uterus, making cramps more painful. If you need your coffee fix, switch to decaf during your period. If you rely on caffeine to beat the afternoon slump, eat a snack high in protein or take a quick 10-minute walk to boost your energy.
6. Try dietary supplements
Vitamin D can help your body absorb calcium and reduce inflammation. Other supplements, including omega-3, vitamin E and magnesium, can help reduce inflammation and might even make your periods less painful. For best results, take supplements every day, not just during your period. Also, because some supplements interact with medications, be sure to ask your doctor before taking anything new.
7. Apply heat
A little heat can help your muscles relax, improve blood flow and relieve tension. Try sitting with a heating pad, taking a hot shower or relaxing in a hot bath.
If you’re in pain, exercise might be the last thing on your mind. But even gentle exercise releases endorphins that make you feel happy, reduce pain and relax your muscles. Fifteen minutes of yoga, light stretching or walking might be all you need to feel better.
9. Reduce stress
Stress may make cramps worse. Use stress relief techniques like meditation, deep breathing, yoga or your own favorite way to relieve stress. If you’re not sure how to relieve stress, try guided imagery. Simply close your eyes, take a deep breath and imagine a calm, safe place that’s significant to you. Stay focused on this space for at least a few minutes while you take slow, deep breaths.
10. Try massage therapy
One study found that massage therapy significantly reduced menstrual pain in women with endometriosis. Massages may reduce uterine spasms by relaxing the uterus. In order to most effectively manage period cramps, massage therapy should focus on the abdominal area. But a full body massage that reduces your overall stress may also help to relieve menstrual cramps.
11. Take over-the-counter (OTC) medicines
The hormone prostaglandin can cause muscle contractions and pain. Anti-inflammatory medicines like ibuprofen can provide fast-acting relief by reducing the amount of prostaglandins in your body. For best results, only take OTC medicines when you start to feel cramps.
12. Try alternative medicine
Some people find relief with alternative medicine practices like acupuncture and acupressure. Acupuncture is a practice that stimulates the body by placing needles in the skin. Acupressure stimulates the body without needles by putting pressure on certain points of the body. These practices can help you relax, release muscle tension and improve blood flow throughout your body.
13. Start hormonal birth control
Birth control can stop period pain if cramps are caused by a hormone imbalance. Balancing your levels of estrogen and progesterone helps thin the uterine lining so it sheds more easily. Hormonal birth control also regulates the length and frequency of your period. Some forms of birth control can completely alleviate period cramps by stopping your period altogether. Talk to your OB-GYN about birth control options, including the pill, birth control shot or hormonal IUD. Then, you’ll be able to choose the type of birth control that works best for you.