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Menstrual Cramps: Relieving Pain

Overview

Painful menstrual cramps (dysmenorrhea) can occur during or just before your period. The cramping can involve your lower belly, back, or thighs. And the pain from these cramps can range from mild to severe. You may also have diarrhea, constipation, or nausea. Or you may get dizzy.

Pain medicine and home treatment can help you feel better.

How can you manage pain from menstrual cramps?

  • Take anti-inflammatory medicines for pain. Ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) and naproxen (Aleve) usually work better than aspirin.
    • Be safe with medicines. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist before you take any of these medicines. They may not be safe if you take other medicines or have other health problems.
    • Start taking the recommended dose of pain medicine as soon as you start to feel pain. Or you can start on the day before your period. Keep taking the medicine for as many days as you have cramps.
    • If anti-inflammatory medicines don't help, try acetaminophen (Tylenol).
    • Do not take two or more pain medicines at the same time unless the doctor told you to. Many pain medicines have acetaminophen, which is Tylenol. Too much acetaminophen (Tylenol) can be harmful.
    • Read and follow all instructions on the label.
  • Put a heating pad set on low or a hot water bottle on your belly. Or take a warm bath. Heat improves blood flow and may help with pain.
  • Lie down and put a pillow under your knees. Or lie on your side and bring your knees up to your chest. This will help with any back pressure.
  • Get at least 30 minutes of exercise on most days of the week. This improves blood flow and may decrease pain. Walking is a good choice. You also may want to do other activities, such as running, swimming, cycling, or playing sports.

Prescription medicine is a good choice if over-the-counter medicine doesn't relieve your painful menstrual cramps. Birth control hormones can help relieve menstrual pain and lighten bleeding. They also prevent pregnancy.

Credits

Current as of: November 22, 2021

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:
Sarah Marshall MD - Family Medicine
Martin J. Gabica MD - Family Medicine
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine