Written by Danielle O’Connor, ND
Here it comes, the pain, first day of your period. You track it knowing that for at least a few days every month your body will feel ‘out of sorts,’ ‘not like me,’ or just ‘off.’ Waves of pain settling into your lower stomach and pelvic area, even radiating into your lower back. It happens every month, but every time you just do not feel prepared for the days of having to deal with your body feeling this way.
You are not alone! Around 80% of women experience period pain at some stage in their lifetime. It can start in early teens and last right up until menopause. Interestingly enough, if your mother suffered from painful periods, you are more likely to also. As women, not only do we deal with monthly period pain but also some other accompanied symptoms like1:
- Tender breasts
- Swollen stomach
- Mood swings
- Lack of focus and concentration
There are multiple reasons for women to experience period pain such as from premenstrual syndrome (PMS), fibroids, ovarian cysts and others2. But one reason that is not talked about a lot is endometriosis. According to the W.H.O., endometriosis affects roughly 10% (190 million) of reproductive age women and girls globally3.
Endometriosis is when the uterine lining, which normally grows inside the uterus, grows outside the uterus usually in other parts of your reproductive organs like the ovaries and fallopian tubes. Because this tissue is located outside of the uterus it has nowhere to exit the body and the tissue can become irritated and develop scar tissue causing organs to stick together4.
Endometriosis is sometimes mistaken for other conditions, so best to contact your health care provider if you have any signs and symptoms.
Dealing with painful periods every month can be as frustrating as it is painful. Luckily, there are some daily health habits that you can do that may help relieve some of that period pain.
1. Increase water intake
It has been suggested that drinking 1600-2000ml of water daily and regularly, can alleviate the severity of primary dysmenorrhea (or period pain).5
2. Skip the coffee
Research has shown that women with lower caffeine consumption may experience less painful period cramps.6
3. Avoid the treats
Studies have shown that eating sugars, salty snacks, sweets, and desserts is associated with an increased risk of painful periods among young women.
4. Apply heat
Heat therapy or using a heating pad has been shown to be beneficial in alleviating menstrual pain.8
5. Just relax
Studies show a significant association between stress and the incidence of period pain; the risk of dysmenorrhea (painful periods) was twice as great among women with high stress as compared with those with low stress prior to their menstrual cycle.9 Think about spending time doing something that helps you relax like yoga, deep breathing, aromatherapy, taking a bath, or even spending time with friends laughing.
Period pain from endometriosis is something to be taken seriously and while you work with your health care practitioner in helping support your medical needs, do not forget that your daily lifestyle choices have a significant impact on how you feel and the extent of pain you may experience. You deserve to feel good every day, free of pain and full of life.
- Women’s Health Concern. Period Pain. November 2019. Accessed February 23, 2022 at https://www.womens-health-concern.org/help-and-advice/factsheets/period-pain/#:~:text=Around%2080%25%20of%20women%20experience,enough%20to%20disrupt%20their%20life.
- Nagy H, Khan MAB. Dysmenorrhea. [Updated 2021 Sep 1]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK560834/
- World Health Organization. Endometriosis. March 31, 2021. Accessed February 23, 2022 at https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/endometriosis#:~:text=Endometriosis%20affects%20roughly%2010%25%20(190,and%20girls%20globally%20(2).
- Mayo Clinic. Endometriosis. July 24, 2018. Accessed February 23, 2022, at https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/endometriosis/symptoms-causes/syc-20354656
- Torkan B, Mousavi M, Dehghani S, et al. The role of water intake in the severity of pain and menstrual distress among females suffering from primary dysmenorrhea: a semi-experimental study. BMC Womens Health. 2021;21(1):40. Published 2021 Jan 28. doi:10.1186/s12905-021-01184-w
- Ozerdogan N, Sayiner D, Ayranci U, Unsal A, Giray S. Prevalence and predictors of dysmenorrhea among students at a university in Turkey. Prevalence and predictors of dysmenorrhea among students at a university in Turkey. 2009
- Najafi N, Khalkhali H, Moghaddam Tabrizi F, Zarrin R. Major dietary patterns in relation to menstrual pain: a nested case control study. BMC Womens Health. 2018;18(1):69. Published 2018 May 21. doi:10.1186/s12905-018-0558-4
- Jo J, Lee SH. Heat therapy for primary dysmenorrhea: A systematic review and meta-analysis of its effects on pain relief and quality of life. Sci Rep. 2018;8(1):16252. Published 2018 Nov 2. doi:10.1038/s41598-018-34303-z
- Wang L, Wang X, Wang W, Chen C, Ronnennberg AG, Guang W, Huang A, Fang Z, Zang T, Wang L, Xu X. Stress and dysmenorrhoea: a population based prospective study. Occup Environ Med. 2004 Dec;61(12):1021-6. doi: 10.1136/oem.2003.012302. PMID: 15550609; PMCID: PMC1740691.