Symptoms and Signs of Menstrual Cramps

Medical Author: John P. Cunha, DO, FACOEP
Medically Reviewed on 3/11/2019

Doctor's Notes on Menstrual Cramps

Menstrual cramps are sharp, throbbing, or cramping pains that occur in a woman's lower abdomen caused by uterine contractions that start when the menstrual period begins and may continue for 2-3 days or longer. The uterine contractions are related to the levels of prostglandins that rise and fall during the menstrual cycle. More than half of all women experience some discomfort during their menstrual periods, but only a small percentage are disabled by the menstrual cramps symptoms.

Symptoms of menstrual cramps can range from mildly annoying to so severely painful and they interfere with daily tasks. In addition to lower abdominal cramps and pain, symptoms that may accompany menstrual cramps include lower back pain, leg pain, hip pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, headaches, bloating, irritability, fatigue, feeling unwell (malaise), and in extreme cases, fainting spells.

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Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.