You dread the monthly visit. It’s painful, messy, and leaves you feeling drained. No, we’re not talking about when your mother-in-law comes. Especially for those with uterine fibroids, it’s the monthly visit of your period that inspires the countdown of dread. While we’d love to make your period a joy, unfortunately, we’re not magical. Instead, we’ve gathered 12 awesome hacks to reduce the pain and deal with the potentially heavy bleeding. Try them and make your period experience less painful, more bearable and maybe even something you don’t dread.
Exercise increases endorphins, serotonin and norepinephrine, the “feel-good” chemicals and neurotransmitters your body produces naturally. Yes, of course it’s hard to get up and move when your abdomen is sending out cries for help. Just tell it to hold on – because it’ll feel much better after you’re done with your walk, bike ride, or whatever other exercise you choose.
In addition to exercise when you have your period, a regular exercise routine that strengthens your abdominal muscles can help your period pain decrease. The stronger your abdomen is, the more control your body will have over cramping.
Take out that hot water bottle or heating pad! Heat can be as effective for easing period cramps as the painkiller ibuprofen, one study found.
In addition to taking a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) like ibuprofen or naproxen when your cramps strike, you could also try and preempt your period pain. If your period is very regular, try taking a painkiller the morning that you expect your period, even if it hasn’t come yet.
As with any medication, check the dosing instruction to make sure you’re taking an appropriate amount.
Just drinking hot tea is often a soothing experience. Pick the right tea, and it could contribute directly to reduced cramping and other uncomfortable period symptoms. Cramp bark, evening primrose oil, chaste tree or chaste berry, black cohosh, turmeric or fennel are all mentioned as herbal remedies by the University of Maryland Medical Center, with the important caveat: almost all of these herbs can interact with drugs you may be taking or exacerbate certain conditions. Check the possible interactions the University of Maryland lists, and consult your doctor to avoid doing harm to your body.
Essential Oil Massage (or even just massage!)
A study testing how well massage with essential oils worked for reducing period pain found that pain was significantly reduced after massaging with essential oils from the end of the last period to the beginning of the next one. It also found that the control group (who massaged with artificially scented cream) ALSO had a significant reduction in pain!
The essential oils did work better to shorten the length of time the women experienced pain, so you may want to treat yourself to some essential oils. But if you just want to try daily massage as a preventative, that may work well too.
Magnesium is very important for healthy nerve and muscle functioning, and getting enough of it can help relieve pain, including period pain. Magnesium is found in dark leafy greens, pumpkin seeds, almonds, avocado and dark chocolate (oh, joy!), among other foods.
Many people report acupressure helping them with period cramps and other symptoms, although there is, as of now, little scientific evidence to back that claim. Even so, taking a few minutes to rub some parts of your body will probably only help you feel better, not worse, so it’s certainly worth a little experimentation. Here are a whole range of points to try massaging, with instructions and explanations for each one.
There is scientific evidence for acupuncture helping with periods, although better-designed and more conclusive studies still need to be done to know for sure. People do report it helping, however, so if you’ve tried other routes with little success, finding a licensed acupuncturist in your area may be worth a try.
Yoga poses like cobra, cat, fish, janusirsasana, bound malasana, camel, embryo and supta padangusthasana may be particularly helpful in reducing period pain. If you’re not familiar with yoga poses (or even if you are!), here’s a 15 minute, low-energy routine that may help you feel better.
Yes, changing our diets is one of the hardest things to do ever, but every little bit helps. Try lowering your intake of sugar, animal fats and increasing anti-inflammatory foods like tomatoes, olive oil, nuts, fatty fish, berries and citrus. The Mediterranean diet is a great way to keep your body healthy and balanced for your period… and in general.
Well, you don’t have to make yourself cry, but if you feel like it, don’t hold yourself back! Crying triggers the body to produce endorphins (those feel-good chemicals we mentioned above), so you really will feel better after a good cry.
Salt is a pretty common period craving, but guess what? It can actually make your symptoms worse! (Who’d have thought?). Salt causes water retention, which can lead to that uncomfortable bloating.
When nothing works…
Sometimes you feel you’ve tried everything. All the natural remedies, all the medicines and even some lifestyle changes. But you’re still in intense pain every month.
If that happens, don’t just sit around and accept it as your destiny. These painful periods might be caused by an underlying medical condition like uterine fibroids. Go to your doctor and get medical advice. If your doctor isn’t able to help (many medical professionals don’t have up-to-date information on fibroids and other menstrual conditions), keep looking until you find someone who is able to understand and help. Diagnosis and treatment might mean the difference between dreading your period, and being able to cope with a minor annoyance.