Should I Take Pain Relievers for Cramps?

Written by Habiba Gambo Umar

This is Habiba Gambo Umar. Habiba is a registered general Nurse, a digital marketer and currently a medical student of Bayero University Kano. When she is not seeing patients, she loves to read, write, meet new persons, and engage in home making. Discipline, doggedness, devotion, and diligence are her bulwarks.

June 22, 2022

Many ladies experiencing dysmenorrhea (painful menstruation) have asked this question over and over again, “Should I take pain relievers for cramps?” Some have received “Yes” but have been battling with the question “What then should I take? Some have received “No” for an answer with the reason being that painkillers affect the period either reducing the flow or abruptly ceasing it, but how true is this?

In this article, we shall be exploring menstrual cramps and addressing some vital questions associated with this phenomenon.

What are Menstrual Cramps?

Menstrual cramps are painful sensations in the lower abdomen and back that range from dull and bothersome to excruciating and unbearable experienced by a lady before or during menstruation. Sometimes associated with dizziness, nausea, loss of appetite, headache, and diarrhoea.

It is worthwhile to note that not all cramps are normal as some could be due to some underlying problems. This is fundamental knowledge to the question, “Should I take pain relievers for cramps?”

This classifies menstrual cramps into:

  • A primary menstrual cramp that comes with the normal menstrual cycle and
  • Secondary menstrual cramps that come due to uterine fibroid, pelvic inflammatory disease etc.

The latter must require adequate treatment beyond pain- relievers. The reason the above exposition remains basic and indispensable.

What Helps with Menstrual Pain?

Having laid an important foundation, it is essential to know what type of menstrual cramp it is, this here points to the importance of consulting a medical doctor to rule out whether it is primary or secondary.

Associated symptoms like foul-smelling discharge, previous history of itching and rashes in the vagina, and burning sensation are indicative of pelvic inflammatory disease which requires meticulous attention from requesting a vaginal swab for microscopic culture and sensitivity test to prescribing appropriate antibiotics to eliminate the organism.

In this case, handling the infection is tantamount to handling the menstrual cramp. Thus, seeking medical attention is very important. However, if it is primary, then the answer to the question; should I take pain relievers for cramps is a yes.

What Helps with Period Cramps Instantly?

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAIDS e.g. Ibuprofen, piroxicam, meloxicam) or Acetaminophen (Tylenol)

How These Drugs Act

Menstrual pain occurs due to a chemical that is produced during that time called “prostaglandin”. This causes the uterus to tighten up. Throughout your menstrual cycle, the uterus, the muscle organ where a baby grows, contracts (tightens up). The uterus contracts more heavily during menstruation as more of this prostaglandin is produced.

When the uterus contracts (tightens up) excessively hard, it can press on adjacent blood arteries, cutting off the oxygen supply to muscular tissue. When a muscle loses its oxygen supply for a short period, it causes discomfort that comes with menstrual pain.

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs act by preventing the production of Prostaglandin which is the main culprit. Acetaminophen (Tylenol or paracetamol) acts by blocking that pain transmission thus relieving pain although it is not as strong as NSAIDs because it does not affect prostaglandins directly.

Aside, from medications for primary menstrual cramps, there are other methods to employ to help get rid of cramps;

What to Do Instead of Taking Pain Relievers for Cramps

1. Applying Heat

Heat can help relax the muscles contributing to cramping, so applying heat to your abdomen or back can help relieve your pain.

Using a heating pad or soaking in a warm bath are great ways to ease period pain.

2. Exercise

When you’re in pain, you may believe that the greatest thing you can do is relax and sleep. Physical activity, on the other hand, is a natural pain reliever. Easy anaerobic exercises you can do at home can help in this aspect.

Exercise causes the release of endorphins, which are substances generated by the body that assist suppress pain perception.

Furthermore, exercise is an excellent way to lower stress, which influences how you perceive pain.

3. Stress Management

Stress impacts your body in a variety of ways, including reducing your pain threshold (one’s limit to bear pain). Taking steps to relieve stress naturally can help you get rid of period cramps naturally. They include;

4. Taking an Adequate Diet

Food rich in vitamins and minerals also contributes to reducing period pain. Taking adequate fluid is also good. People who eat junk and refined sugars have experienced much more pain than those who do not.

Do These Medications Affect Menstrual Period in Any Way?

Before you decide; ” should I take pain relievers for cramps ” know that they affect you. Yes, it is very important to know that most drugs or medications have side effects. Most NSAIDs e.g. Ibuprofen can reduce menstrual flow by 28-49% and are very high doses can even halt it.

This is because one of their side effects is clot formation (i.e. they cause the blood to thicken). Also, the prostaglandin is what causes the Uterus to contract and bleed subsequently and this chemical (prostaglandin) release is affected by NSAIDs.

Aspirin on the other hand is a blood thinner and so can cause heavy flow. Other side effects such as Peptic ulcers, gastritis, and kidney disease (from long-term use of NSAIDs).

How and When Should I Take NSAIDs e.g. Ibuprofen

It is advisable to take NSAIDs before the onset of menses and continue for 1 to 3 days or the usual duration of painful symptoms. Patients with severe symptoms may begin taking an NSAID 1 to 2 days before the onset of menses.

Over-the-counter pain relievers, such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others) or naproxen sodium and paracetamol can be used.

Start taking the pain reliever at the beginning of your period, or as soon as you feel symptoms, and continue taking the medicine as directed for two to three days, or until your symptoms are gone.

  • Tab. Ibuprofen 200mg three times daily with food
  • Tab.Diclofenac 50mg morning and evening with food
  • Tab.Naproxen sodium with food 500mg morning and evening
  • Tab.Paracetamol 500mg three times daily.

There is also a need to try as much as possible to do away with medications during menstrual pain and to utilize the other method above.

Conclusion

The question”Should I take relievers for cramps?” have been the most challenging question for ladies with painful menstruation. This question is however only an umbrella to many other questions. The correct answer is “Yes”, and other aspects have been addressed in this article.

Let me know if I skipped your burning question in the comments.

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