How and why do menstrual pains arise?
Probably none of the readers will be surprised that menstrual pain, professionally dysmenorrhea, is related to the course of your menstrual cycle.
Now I apologise for a small detour to the biology class. During the menstrual cycle, lasting an average of 28 days, the lining of the uterine cavity – endometrium – is regularly renewed. During the menstrual cycle, the endometrium undergoes a number of changes. During the cycle, the mucous membrane layer grows and prepares for the possible reception of an egg. In the middle of the ovulation cycle, the endometrium is richly perfused, porous, and reaches its maximum thickness. Well, you already know that. If the miracle of numbers does not happen, such a small system restart occurs. The blood-saturated endometrium peels off as a result of changes in hormonal levels and leaves the body with the unfertilized egg.
Okay. So where does the pain come from? In order for this uterine restart to occur, a uterus stimulated by prostaglandin (hormone substances) contractions occurs. The muscles of the uterus contract and tense, which partially disrupts the blood supply to the mucosa and it then dies. However, these contractions can not only extend to contractions of smooth muscle, but also cause contractions of the intestinal wall, so it is a mix of unpleasant cramps in the womb.
There is another ingredient in the hormonal cocktail, vasopressin, a hormone that affects blood vessel function and, ultimately, the combination of contractions and adequate blood flow does not reduce blood
to the entire lower abdomen and reduce the supply of oxygen to the uterine tissue. And it’s starting to really hurt us.
How does menstrual pain manifest itself and when is it better to see a doctor?
Each of us encounters a specific course of painful menstruation, but most often pain can be described as a form of unpleasant pressure in the lower abdomen, which often turns into a stabbing pain that in some cases shoots up to the back. One of the most painful processes is painful cramps, which can literally upset you, and this often means that you have to spend time at home, in bed, completely out of your normal activities. Pay attention to the more difficult course and especially to the complications that last for a long time even after menstruation.
If you have them, be sure to alert your gynecologist, as they can be a symptom of more serious complications such as endometriosis, fibroids, polyps and other “joys”.
Over 50-85% of us suffer from these problems. So do not look for a problem in yourself, talk about your problems with family, friends and especially a doctor. You may not be surprised that the disposition for these complications is largely hereditary, because it is related to the overall hormonal balance. The younger of us also experience them more often and with greater intensity before the first birth. However, older women often experience pain in bed, which is also associated with not bleeding in this area. More often, up to 50%, of smokers experience pain. On the other hand, women are more physically active – movement and specifically some exercises improve blood flow in the pelvis.
How to prevent pain and how to alleviate it or why heat is better than a pink pill reliever?
Seeking to minimize the recourse to chemistry for their bodies, whether it is a milder form of hormonal contraception, its replacement by non-hormonal methods, or just finding other solutions to menstrual pain than analgesics. This can lead to dangerous addictions, modulation of the natural pain threshold, stomach problems and other complications, which will certainly not fit into the search for a healthy lifestyle.
Through the action of local heat, for example, from the heated Body Moody, you can eliminate the cause of the pain itself or at least significantly alleviate it. The local heat helps to improve the blood supply to the entire abdomen and thus the pain does not have to occur at all. The pills only dampen your perception of pain and do not solve the problem itself. The effect of local heat is nothing new in the treatment of menstrual pain (especially in the form of hot showers and spas, which our grandmothers already knew).
Only the development of modern technology, which has helped make the often unsightly “electric blankets” a functional and elegant piece of clothing, allows the wide use of local heat therapy.
During the development of our body, we read several foreign studies that compared local heat therapy with the administration of analgesics (pills). Most study authors worked with standardized pain scales, which allowed women divided into three groups to assess their menstrual pain. One part of the sample was intended to alleviate pain with a predetermined amount of analgesics, the other received a placebo instead of painkillers, and the third applied local heat in the form of warm pads or an electric heated device on a similar principle as our points. The results were surprising. The difference in the level of average reported pain between the placebo control group and the two drug and thermotherapy groups was almost the same. Thus, by heating, the same effect can be achieved in the treatment of menstrual pain as by the administration of painkillers. More precisely, a better effect compared to paracetamol (eg Paralen) and the same effect compared to ibuprofen (most common pain medications). But without all the negatives that long-term use of drugs entails.
What can I change?
Just to be clear, we certainly do not encourage you to resign from conventional medicine, heat therapy is, after all, a common part of it. We want each of us to be able to reach for a safe alternative to a pill of pills.
And what can help you?
- Limit smoking and alcohol. Sure, it probably won’t surprise you, but it had to be heard. Both affect the quality of blood circulation and it is directly related to the onset of pain.
- Try yoga and other pelvic floor exercises. It will help you with the relaxation and blood circulation of the area.
- Try herbs, generally those that help relieve and relieve pain: yarrow, lemon balm for total relaxation and soothing. Buttercup or, for example, the two-year-old evening primrose has a beneficial effect on the quality of the menstrual cycle.
- Orgasm. Grandma probably wouldn’t give you this advice, but we would. Although during the pain, few of us think about sex, oxytocin and other substances that the body produces during these moments act against the pain. In addition, there is blood circulation throughout the area and, as we already know, this helps.
- Heat. Warm up the area of the lower abdomen (and back), this will perfuse it and the pain may not occur at all. Make your own heat therapy – at home, at work, at school or on a trip.
Sources for the mentioned studies:
- Akin, M. et al. Continuous, low-level, topical heat wrap therapy as compared to acetaminophen for primary dysmenorrhea. J Reprod Med 49, 739–745 (2004).
- Akin, M. D. et al. Continuous low-level topical heat in the treatment of dysmenorrhea. Obstet Gynecol 97, 343–349 (2001).
- Jo, J., Lee, S.H. Heat therapy for primary dysmenorrhea: A systematic review and meta-analysis of its effects on pain relief and quality of life. Sci Rep 8, 16252 (2018).
- Shahindokht Navvabi Rigi, Fatihe kermansaravi, Ali Navidian, Leila Safabakhsh, Ameneh Safarzadeh, Somaye Khazaian, Shahla Shafie & Tahmineh Salehian Comparing the analgesic effect of heat patch containing iron chip and ibuprofen for primary dysmenorrhea: a randomized controlled trial, BMC Women’s Health volume, Article number: 25 (2012)