When I asked my female followers on social media to answer a survey about what their biggest period problems were I wasn’t expecting what came back; period pain. I’ve had period pain for many years. I have felt alone, and have put lots of pressure on myself to attend social events and carry on working through it. But as it turns out, I’m not alone. 48% of women replied to my survey explaining period pain was the main problem they deal with and 42% said mood swings are the worst.
Period pain, without any underlying cause, is called primary dysmenorrhea and affects 84% of menstruating women. Of that, 25% need to take medication and time off work to deal with it. I fit into that 25%. If you’re not sure you have primary dysmenorrhea, then go and see your doctor. Please do your research on the possible side effects of all treatments and tests offered before deciding what you want to do. Over the many years that I’ve had period pain, I’ve also been an herbalist. I’m always on the look out for natural answers. Sadly I have not found that one thing that makes the pain go away completely, but I have found a lot that makes it better. But first, why do we get period pain?
Period pain is caused by contractions of the uterus in response to prostaglandins. Prostaglandins are chemical messengers, which trigger the contractions and help the endometrial tissue break away from the uterus and be pushed out of the body. It’s the same as what happens during birth just with none of the oxytocin pain killing benefits that childbirth has. That’s why some women who have experienced severe period pain find childbirth a doddle. It seems to me like period pain is part and parcel of a healthy and effective period. But I don’t think it has to be incapacitating. That’s where my period hacks come in.
- Hot water bottles are the traditional method to relieve period pains as it helps to relax the muscle tension surrounding it. But you can now get these awesome disposable heat pads, which are so thin you can stick them to your body and wear them under your clothes without anyone knowing.
- Orgasm is a powerful pain killer as it unleashes endorphins into the system which are even more powerful than the most powerful opiate drugs. You don’t have to make this a particularly romantic experience as you’re already in pain. Just use your favorite vibrator.
- Evening primrose oil is anti-inflammatory and prostaglandins are inflammatory. The more prostaglandins you have the more painful your period pain will be. Take it every day during that time of the month.
- Avoid refined sugar because it’s inflammatory and encourages prostaglandins.
- Drink relaxing pain-killing teas like Cramp Bark, Chamomile, Lemon Balm, or Lady’s Mantle every day throughout your cycle. Then top up with ‘stat’ doses of Cramp Bark Tincture throughout the day if you need to. I usually have 20ml as often as I need it for up to 5 doses within the day. If that doesn’t work, I might as well take paracetomol!
- Preliminary trials have shown that magnesium may help with period pain. It is best absorbed through the skin so hot baths with Epsom salts (magnesium rich) or sprays of magnesium are great for lessening the pain.
Written By: Natasha Richardson, Medical Herbalist
Member of the Kali Girl Tribe.