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Women's Health

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Menstrual Pain

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Medications for Menstrual Pain

The best way to relieve painful menstrual cramps is to take an anti-inflammatory medication. Ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), naproxen (Aleve, Naprosyn), and ketoprofen (Orudis) are available without a prescription and are effective at blocking the effects of prostaglandins.

  • These drugs work better if taken before the start of menstruation and can be continued as long as needed. If one type does not relieve the pain, try another, because these medications do not work the same in everyone.
  • Anti-inflammatory drugs like this can be harsh on the stomach. If there is a history of kidney problems or stomach problems (such as ulcers or reflux), consult with your health care provider before starting this type of medication. Taking the pills with meals may help prevent upset stomach.
  • Starting some form of hormonal birth control is another option to control or stop menstrual cramps. This can be a pill, an injection, a transdermal patch, or a hormone-containing IUD. These methods can reduce or eliminate the menstrual flow leading to less pain.

Menstrual Pain Home Remedies

If anti-inflammatory medicine is not an option or if additional relief is needed, the following strategies may help relieve menstrual cramps:

  • A heating pad to the pelvic area
  • Massage to the back and lower abdomen
  • Exercise, especially prior to the start of a period
  • Thiamine (100 mg daily)
  • Low-fat vegetarian diet
  • Calcium (1,200 mg daily)

Surgery for Menstrual Pain

Surgery can be used to treat some causes of menstrual cramps such as fibroids, polyps, ovarian cysts, or endometriosis.

Other Therapy for Menstrual Pain

If taking hormonal birth control is not an option because of health problems or the woman is among the 10% of women who do not respond to this treatment, there are some other alternatives.

  • Acupuncture
  • Nitroglycerin patch
  • Wearing a TENS (transcutaneous electrical neural stimulation) unit, a small electrical device that interferes with pain signals as they travel to the brain

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