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Menstrual Cramps

Menstrual Cramps Overview

Menstrual cramps are sharp pains in a woman's lower abdomen that occur when her menstrual period begins and may continue for 2-3 days, a few women may have them last longer. Symptoms can range in severity from a mild annoyance to severe pain that interferes with normal activities.

Menstrual cramps are the leading cause of absenteeism in women younger than 30 years of age. Although over half of women who have menstrual periods experience some discomfort, a small percent are temporarily disabled by symptoms. The medical term for painful menstruation is dysmenorrhea.

The following circumstances may make a woman more likely to experience menstrual cramps:

  • She started her first period at an early age (younger than 11 years).
  • Her menstrual periods last 5 days or longer.
  • She smokes cigarettes
  • She has never been pregnant.
  • She has female relatives who have menstrual cramps.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 11/12/2014

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Patient Comments & Reviews

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Menstrual Pain - Treatment

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Menstrual Cramps - Home Remedies

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Relieving Menstrual Pain

To help relieve menstrual cramps:

  • Apply heat to your abdomen with a heating pad or hot water bottle, or take a warm bath. You might find that heat relieves the pain as well as medicine does.
  • Lie down and elevate your legs by putting a pillow under your knees.
  • Lie on your side and bring your knees up to your chest. This will help relieve back pressure.
  • Try using sanitary napkins instead of tampons.
  • Get regular exercise. You might find that it helps relieve pain.

Over-the-counter medicine usually relieves menstrual pain.

  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, help relieve menstrual cramps and pain.
  • Start taking the recommended dose of pain reliever when discomfort begins or 1 day before your menstrual period starts.
  • Take the medicine for as long as the symptoms would normally last if you did not take the medicine.
  • If an NSAID does not relieve the pain, try acetaminophen, such as Tylenol.

Be sure to follow all labels and instructions. If you are pregnant or trying to become pregnant, talk to your health professional before using any medicine. Do not take aspirin if you are younger than 20 because of the risk of Reye syndrome.

Healthwise. Relieving Menstrual Pain

Read What Your Physician is Reading on Medscape

Dysmenorrhea »

Dysmenorrhea is defined as difficult menstrual flow or painful menstruation.

Read More on Medscape Reference »

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