Do you struggle with period pain and wondering why do periods hurt? WUKA experts discuss all the reasons as to why your period hurts.
Cause Of Period Pain
Dysmenorrhoea, also known as period pain, is a common occurrence- affecting up to 90% of women, leading to campaigns to allow women to take time off work during this time.
So if you’re reading this and you have a period, chances are you’re already pretty familiar with the cramps that happen during your cycle. But do you know what exactly what these cramps are, and what causes them?
According the to the NHS, period pains occur when the muscles in the walls of the uterus contract. Usually, these contractions are so mild that we don’t really feel them, but during your period the intensity of the contractions increases, so that your uterus is able to shed its lining more efficiently. This is what makes up part of your period blood each month.
So when your uterus contracts, it also squeezes the blood vessels that line your uterus- and this temporarily cuts off the blood- and oxygen- supply to your uterus, releasing prostaglandins. And its the prostaglandins that trigger the pain, encouraging more contractions to occur and as a result, more pain too.
The fact is though, that some women experience more painful periods than others, and there could be a medical reason why.
Around 1.5 million women in the UK are affected by Endometriosis, but it’s notoriously difficult to diagnose.
With this condition, endometrial cells (normally found in the uterus) are found in other places in the body. These cells break down and bleed each month, but the blood cannot be released in the way that your period does, and this causes pain, inflammation and scarring.
Symptoms of endometriosis include:
- Very painful periods
- Painful bowel movements
- Paint during and/ or after sex
If you suspect that you might have endometrisosis, make an appointment to see your GP so that you can discuss treatment options. Its also a good idea to keep a track of your symptoms each month, including how long your period lasts for, how heavy it is and how severe your pains are each month. Read more advice on getting a diagnosis from Endometriosis UK.
Uterine fibroids are non-cancerous growths found in or around the uterus, and they affect around 2 in 3 women during their lifetime.
In many cases, fibroids don’t cause symptoms and are only picked up during a routine exam, such as a smear test. It’s thought that fibroids are linked to oestrogen production in the body, but doctors can’t be sure, and if they’re not causing problems they’re usually left to go away on their own.
For some women though, uterine fibroids can cause heavy and painful periods, with lower abdominal pain and lower back pain. If you think you might have fibroids- or your doctor refers you for a scan to check- there are a few treatment options available to you. Speak to your doctor to find out more.
Pelvic Inflammatory Disease
Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID) is a common infection of the female reproductive system- the uterus, fallopian tubes and the ovaries.
PID doesn’t always cause major symptoms, but some women may experience pain around the pelvis and lower abdomen and painful periods. This is often accompanied by heavy bleeding, bleeding between periods and a change in vaginal discharge.
The NHS advice is to visit a GP or sexual health clinic if you suspect you may have PID. If left untreated, long term issues can occur.
Adenomyosis occurs when the tissues that make up the lining of the uterus grow into the muscular wall. Some women don’t experience any symptoms at all, but others might.
Heavy and painful periods are common symptoms along with being bloated and feeling pressure in your abdomen.
There are a few different treatment options available to you if you have adenomyosis- speak to your GP for a referral to discuss the best plan for you.
An intrauterine Device (IUD) may also cause painful periods. Some women also experience a temporary intensity of their usual period pains.
How Long Do Periods Hurt?
The good news is that for most women, period pains are temporary and usually last for around 48-72 hours only. Of course, some will experience period cramps for a longer period of time, and some shorter. If you track your period, you’ll know what is normal for you.
If you’ve only just started your periods, you might experience more cramps for a longer time during menstruation. This should settle down as your cycle becomes more regular.
Period pains are usually more intense at the beginning of your period (although some will experience them in the days leading up to their period too), and your period is likely to be at its heaviest then too. This is because levels of prostaglandins are higher at this time, as your uterus contracts to shed its lining.
Treating Period Pain
The symptoms of period cramps can vary from person to person, but there’s no denying they can be painful. Most women will experience some or all of the following;
- Abdominal cramps/ tummy ache
- Nausea or being sick
- Feeling light-headed and dizzy
But there are plenty of remedies for period pain- both medicinal and natural.
Medication for period pain
The National institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) reports that period pain can be managed easily at home with over the counter medications. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as Ibuprofen are very effective and can be taken by most. Paracetamol can also be taken.
NICE also recommend that hormonal contraceptive pills can also be prescribed to manage period pain; these can be taken alongside NSAIDs and paracetamol.
Natural remedies for period pain
A 2005 study looked into complimentary and alternative methods of pain relief for period cramps and found that Thiamine (vitamin B1) and vitamin E were both effective in treating period pain. The study also found that Omega-3 could also play a role in reducing symptoms.
Using heat can also be really effective. A hot water bottle to the tummy or a warm bath can be really effective for period pain. The WUKA hot water bottle is wearable, so you can attach it to your tummy and go about your day- it even has a pocket for your phone. Win win!
Other supplements known to help with period pains include:
- Chamomile: this 2011 study looked into its effectiveness in reducing inflammation and easing abdominal cramps.
- Evening primrose oil: another natural remedy that works by reducing inflammation.
- Ginger: this 2018 study found that ginger can be just as effective as regular pain killers.
- Fennel: another fantastic natural remedy for relieving period pains, backed up by this 2014 study that looked into it’s effects on women suffering from dysmenorrhea.
- Cinnamon: this 2015 study found that cinnamon has the power to not only relive period pains, but to reduce heavy bleeding and nausea too.
Period pain can also be managed with a few lifestyle changes too. Getting enough sleep is vital, so that your body can rest and recover as it works hard to get through your cycle. Being rested will help to potentially ease emotional symptoms of PMS too.
Staying hydrated is also a good idea. When you’re de-hydrated your muscles are more likely to cramp, and this can worsen abdominal cramps.
Eating a healthy, balanced diet can also be beneficial when it comes to easing period pains. Foods that are heavy on salt, processed, sugary or greasy can be really hard on your digestive system at the best of times, never mind when you’re struggling with period pains. Alcohol and smoking should also be avoided.
Exercise for period pain
A 2019 study found that 45-60 minutes exercise has the power to ease period pain for many women- and although more research is needed, this is certainly very promising.
Low intensity exercise, such as yoga, has been found to be particularly beneficial- and this has the added bonus of being meditative too. Gentle walks and swimming can also be helpful in easing cramps.
Overall, exercise on your period is a great idea- it helps to elevate serotonin levels, which can leave you feeling energised and give you a mood boost when you really need it.
Shop Period Pants
The last thing you need when you’re suffering with period cramps is leaks or anxiety about whether or not your tampon is up to the job. We’ve got you. WUKA period pants are soft, comfy and 100% leak-proof, so you can say goodbye to plastic-riddled disposables and just get on with your day.
Shop by flow
When you’re on your heaviest days, go for Super Heavy or Heavy flow period pants. These have a slightly thicker, super absorbent gusset going all the way around the back so they’ve got you covered, even while you sleep.
Shop by flow to find the period pants that will keep you leak-free and confident even on your heaviest days.
Shop by style
If you’re bloated and suffering with cramps, our high waisted period pants are a great choice. They won’t dig in to your tummy, instead they’ll gently support you while you recover and rest. We also have our Stretch Seamless period pants , which are super soft and stretchy, fitting up to 6 UK sizes and moulding to your body shape for a buttery soft hold.
Shop by style to find the fit that suits you, wherever you are on your cycle.
Shop by collection
The WUKA Perform collection was made for those who want to hit the gym on their period. Our period leggings have a pair of period pants stitched right into them so you can go with your flow and just carry on. Genius!
Shop by collection to find the perfect pair of period pants for your cycle.
Why is her period so painful?
There are a lot of changes taking place in a woman’s body during her menstrual cycle. As her period begins, her uterus contracts to shed it’s lining (that’s what comes out during her period, along with blood and other tissue) and this cause prostaglandins to trigger pain.
The first few days are usually the most painful, as the uterus is contracting more in order to shed its lining. As the cycle continues and the blood flow eases, the period pains also ease.
If period pains persist for more than around 72 hours, or are severe, there could be an underlying reason for the pain. Conditions such as endometriosis, fibroids and pelvic inflammatory disease can cause secondary period pains; these conditions can be treated.
Why do periods hurt so much on the first day?
The first day of your period is usually the heaviest, as the uterus is contracting to shed its lining. These contractions prompt prostaglandins to trigger a pain reaction in the body. As your period flow eases, around day 2-4, the period pains also ease as the contractions begin to slow.