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PAINFUL PERIODS: Let's talk about it

Stomach cramps are a common symptom of painful periods.
It is common for women to experience painful periods that affect their daily living.

Painful periods (dysmenorrhea)

Dysmenorrhea is a medical term used to describe painful menstrual cramps. It is a common experience for many women, and it can range from mild discomfort to severe pain. The pain is usually felt in the lower abdomen and can also be accompanied with other symptoms, such as headache, nausea, and fatigue.

It is estimated that anywhere from 50-90% of women will experience painful periods at some point in their lives.

What causes dysmenorrhea?

The exact cause of dysmenorrhea is not fully understood, but it is believed to be related to the production of prostaglandins, hormone-like substances that are produced by the lining of the uterus. During menstrual periods, the levels of prostaglandins increase, causing the uterus to contract. These contractions can be painful, especially if they are strong and prolonged.

Other factors that may contribute to dysmenorrhea include hormonal imbalances, endometriosis (a condition in which the tissue that normally lines the inside of the uterus grows outside of it), uterine fibroids (noncancerous growths in the uterus), and pelvic inflammatory disease (an infection of the reproductive organs).

In some cases, the cause of dysmenorrhea may not be clear, and it may be a result of a combination of factors.

What are the symptoms of dysmenorrhea?

The main symptom of dysmenorrhea is menstrual cramps, which are typically felt in the lower abdomen. The pain may be dull and achy or sharp and severe, and it may be accompanied by other symptoms, including:

How can dysmenorrhea be treated?

There are several treatments available for dysmenorrhea. Traditional therapies can include:

1. Pain relievers: Over-the-counter pain relievers, such as ibuprofen and naproxen, can help to relieve menstrual cramps.

2. Hormonal therapies: Birth control pills, patches, or IUDs that release hormones can help regulate menstrual cycles and reduce the pain associated with dysmenorrhea.

3. Heat: Applying a heating pad to the lower abdomen can help relieve menstrual cramps.

4. Exercise: Regular exercise, such as walking, yoga, or stretching, can help reduce the severity of menstrual cramps.

5. Acupuncture: Acupuncture is a traditional Chinese therapy that involves the insertion of thin needles into specific points on the body. It has been shown to be effective in reducing menstrual pain.

6. Herbal remedies: Some women find relief from menstrual cramps with the use of herbal remedies and supplements.

7. Lifestyle changes: Making changes to your diet, such as increasing your intake of anti-inflammatory foods, and managing stress through relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing and meditation, can also help reduce the severity of menstrual cramps.

The bottom line:

You do NOT have to deal with painful periods. When speaking with your healthcare provider, it is important to remember that what works for one woman may not work for another, and that each woman's individual needs and health history must be taken into account when developing a treatment plan. Functional medicine providers work with each patient to determine the best course of treatment for their individual needs.

Carol Rademeyer is a highly regarded Advanced Practice Registered Nurse with a wealth of experience in women's health. With over 25 years of professional practice and a Master of Science Degree in Midwifery from the Midwifery Institute at Philadelphia University, she is a respected expert in her field. Her rigorous academic and professional background has earned her board certification in her specialty, and she has fulfilled the requirements in Florida for Autonomous Practice as an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse.

In addition to her clinical practice, Carol has also made significant contributions to the broader medical community. She has been published in several prestigious medical journals and has been a speaker at the national conference for the American College of Nurse Midwives, where she has shared her expertise and insights with her peers.

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