Anyone with menstrual cramps knows how dreadful getting your period can be. Dysmenorrhea (the medical term for menstrual cramps) can be intense at times and can radiate to the thighs or lower back. It may even cause nausea, dizziness and vomiting. If you experience severe pain, see your healthcare practitioner to rule out underlying causes of menstrual cramps. Underlying causes of menstrual cramps include endometriosis, uterine fibroids, adenomyosis and pelvic inflammatory disease.
If you are tired of popping painkillers and are interested in taking the natural route, you may try the following (but remember to rule out any underlying causes first):
1. Warmth helps to relax muscles and improve circulation. Put a heating pad or warm packs on your abdomen. Do this for at least 15 to 20 minutes while doing deep breathing exercises.
2. Have you tried Chinese herbal medicine for menstrual cramps? 39 clinical trials involving 3,475 women found that Chinese herbal medicine is safe and works effectively for women suffering with dysmenorrhea. These trials were put together in an overall study led by Dr. Xiaoshu Zhu, who works at the Center for Complementary Medicine Research at the University of Western Sydney, Australia. “Chinese herbal medicine gave significant improvements in pain relief when compared to pharmaceutical drugs. It also reduced overall symptoms. The research revealed that Chinese herbal medicine was also better at alleviating pain than acupuncture or heat compression,” concluded Dr. Zhu.
White peony, Glycerrhiza (licorice), Bupleurum and Angelica (dang gui) are some of the more popular Chinese herbs used to alleviate menstrual cramps. They work by alleviating spasms (i.e. relaxing the uterine muscles), promoting circulation and reducing inflammation. These medicinal herbs are often blended together or with other herbs for synergistic effects. Formulas are tailor made to suit each individual’s needs and constitution. There is rising concern that many herbs sourced from China are contaminated with pesticides, heavy metals and other toxic chemicals. In her practice, Dr. Yik uses top quality herbs (in liquid form) which are tested for purity and adulteration.
3. Magnesium is a nutrient that can help ease muscle cramps. It is found in many foods such as nuts, seeds, beans, leafy vegetables and whole grains. To treat muscle cramps, magnesium supplements are often taken along with calcium.
4. Western herbs such as cramp bark and black haw help to reduce uterine cramping, pain and tension during menstruation. It is best to seek a licensed naturopathic doctor for a herbal formula that is personalized to your individual needs and constitution.
5. A lumbosacral mobilization session before and/ or during your period helps to relieve pain in the lower back and pelvic areas. These mobilization sessions are offered by trained osteopaths, chiropractors and naturopathic doctors.