Period pain is usually felt as muscle cramps in your lower tummy, which can sometimes spread to your back and thighs. Sometimes the pain comes in intense spasms, while at other times the pain may be dull but more constant. It normally lasts for 12-24 hours.
Why it happens
Most cases of period pain occur when the muscular wall of the womb contracts. This squeezes the blood vessels that line your womb, which temporarily cuts off the blood supply (and hence oxygen supply) to your womb. Without oxygen, the tissues in your womb release chemicals that trigger pain in your body.
How common is it?
About three quarters (3 out of 4) of young women and a quarter to a half of adult women experience pain during their period.
What to do
Most cases of period pain can be treated at home. You can buy a number of painkillers over the counter to help manage your pain, speak to the chemist about which ones are best for you and read the instructions. If these do not work visit your GP to talk about other medications you may take, including some types of contraception.
There are a number of ways you can treat your painful periods at home. Although you may not stop your pain completely, they can often help to ease or reduce it.
Exercise: keeping active can help to reduce pain. Try gentle swimming, walking or cycling.
Heat: try using a heat pad or a hot water bottle - hot not boiling water, as you may damage your skin.
Warm bath or shower: taking a bath or shower can help to relieve your pain and help you to relax.
Massage: light circular massage around your lower abdomen may help to reduce pain. Relaxation techniques: you might want to try yoga or Tai Chi to help distract you from feelings of pain.
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