Learn About Painful Menstrual Periods

What is the definition of Painful Menstrual Periods?

Painful menstrual periods are periods in which a woman has crampy lower abdominal pain, which can be sharp or aching and come and go. Back pain and/or leg pain may also be present.

Some pain during your period is normal, but a large amount of pain is not. The medical term for painful menstrual periods is dysmenorrhea.

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What are the alternative names for Painful Menstrual Periods?

Menstruation - painful; Dysmenorrhea; Periods - painful; Cramps - menstrual; Menstrual cramps

What is some background information about Painful Menstrual Periods?

Many women have painful periods. Sometimes, the pain makes it hard to do normal household, job, or school-related activities for a few days during each menstrual cycle. Painful menstruation is the leading cause of lost time from school and work among women in their teens and 20s.

What are the causes of Painful Menstrual Periods?

Painful menstrual periods fall into two groups, depending on the cause:

  • Primary dysmenorrhea
  • Secondary dysmenorrhea

Primary dysmenorrhea is menstrual pain that occurs around the time that menstrual periods first begin in otherwise healthy young women. In most cases, this pain is not related to a specific problem with the uterus or other pelvic organs. Increased activity of the hormone prostaglandin, which is produced in the uterus, is thought to play a role in this condition.

Secondary dysmenorrhea is menstrual pain that develops later in women who have had normal periods. It is often related to problems in the uterus or other pelvic organs, such as:

  • Endometriosis
  • Fibroids
  • Intrauterine device (IUD) made of copper
  • Pelvic inflammatory disease
  • Premenstrual syndrome (PMS)
  • Sexually transmitted infection
  • Stress and anxiety
How do I perform a home exam for a Painful Menstrual Periods?

The following steps may help you to avoid prescription medicines:

  • Apply a heating pad to your lower belly area, below your belly button. Never fall asleep with the heating pad on.
  • Do light circular massage with your fingertips around your lower belly area.
  • Drink warm beverages.
  • Eat light, but frequent meals.
  • Keep your legs raised while lying down or lie on your side with your knees bent.
  • Practice relaxation techniques, such as meditation or yoga.
  • Try over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medicine, such as ibuprofen or naproxen. Start taking it the day before your period is expected to begin and continue taking it regularly for the first few days of your period.
  • Try vitamin B6, calcium, and magnesium supplements, especially if your pain is from PMS.
  • Take warm showers or baths.
  • Walk or exercise regularly, including pelvic rocking exercises.
  • Lose weight if you are overweight. Get regular, aerobic exercise.

If these self-care measures do not work, your health care provider may offer you treatment such as:

  • Birth control pills
  • Mirena IUD
  • Prescription anti-inflammatory medicines
  • Prescription pain relievers (including narcotics, for brief periods)
  • Antidepressants
  • Antibiotics
  • Pelvic ultrasound
  • Suggest surgery (laparoscopy) to rule out endometriosis or other pelvic disease
When should I contact a medical professional for Painful Menstrual Periods?

Call your provider right away if you have:

  • Increased or foul-smelling vaginal discharge
  • Fever and pelvic pain
  • Sudden or severe pain, especially if your period is more than 1 week late and you have been sexually active.

Also call if:

  • Treatments do not relieve your pain after 3 months.
  • You have pain and had an IUD placed more than 3 months ago.
  • You pass blood clots or have other symptoms with the pain.
  • Your pain occurs at times other than menstruation, begins more than 5 days before your period, or continues after your period is over.
What should I expect during a doctor appointment?

Your provider will examine you and ask questions about your medical history and symptoms.

Tests and procedures that may be done include:

  • Complete blood count (CBC)
  • Cultures to rule out sexually transmitted infections
  • Laparoscopy
  • Pelvic ultrasound

Treatment depends on what is causing your pain.

Female reproductive anatomy
Painful periods (dysmenorrhea)
Relieving PMS
Who are the top Painful Menstrual Periods Local Doctors?
Highly rated in

University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

London, ENG, GB 

Joel Naftalin is in London, United Kingdom. Naftalin is rated as an Elite expert by MediFind in the treatment of Painful Menstrual Periods. He is also highly rated in 2 other conditions, according to our data. His top areas of expertise are Painful Menstrual Periods, Adenomyosis, Uterine Fibroids, and Endometriosis.

Highly rated in
Obstetrics and Gynecology

NorthShore University Health System

Northshore Medical Group

757 Park Ave W 
Highland Park, IL 60035

Frank Tu is an Obstetrics and Gynecologist in Highland Park, Illinois. Dr. Tu has been practicing medicine for over 24 years and is rated as a Distinguished doctor by MediFind in the treatment of Painful Menstrual Periods. He is also highly rated in 6 other conditions, according to our data. His top areas of expertise are Painful Menstrual Periods, Interstitial Cystitis, Uterine Fibroids, and Neuralgia. He is licensed to treat patients in Illinois. Dr. Tu is currently accepting new patients.

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Highly rated in

The First Affiliated Hospital Of Xi'an Jiaotong University

Xi'an, CN 

Wanghuan Dun is in Xi'an, China. Dun is rated as a Distinguished expert by MediFind in the treatment of Painful Menstrual Periods. They are also highly rated in 1 other condition, according to our data. Their top areas of expertise are Painful Menstrual Periods, Mittelschmerz, Migraine, and Chronic Pain.

What are the latest Painful Menstrual Periods Clinical Trials?
Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation for Pain Control During First Trimester Abortion: a Blinded Randomized Controlled Trial
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The Effect of a Probiotic on Gastrointestinal Symptoms Due to Menstruation in Healthy Adult Women: a Randomized, Double-blind, Controlled Clinical Trial
What are the Latest Advances for Painful Menstrual Periods?
Herbal medicine (Hyeolbuchukeo-tang or Xuefu Zhuyu decoction) for treating primary dysmenorrhea: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials.
Effects of aromatherapy on dysmenorrhea: A systematic review and meta-analysis.
Tired of the same old research?
Check Latest Advances
Efficacy of Acupuncture in the Management of Primary Dysmenorrhea: A Randomized Controlled Trial.
Who are the sources who wrote this article ?

Published Date : March 31, 2020
Published By : John D. Jacobson, MD, Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Loma Linda University School of Medicine, Loma Linda Center for Fertility, Loma Linda, CA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

What are the references for this article ?

American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Dysmenorrhea: painful periods. FAQ046. www.acog.org/Patients/FAQs/Dysmenorrhea-Painful-Periods. Updated January 2015. Accessed May 13, 2020.

Mendiratta V, Lentz GM. Primary and secondary dysmenorrhea, premenstrual syndrome, and premenstrual dysphoric disorder: etiology, diagnosis, management. In: Lobo RA, Gershenson DM, Lentz GM, Valea FA, eds. Comprehensive Gynecology. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2017:chap 37.

Pattanittum P, Kunyanone N, Brown J, et al. Dietary supplements for dysmenorrhea. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2016;3:CD002124. PMID: 27000311 www.pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27000311/.