When you first began menstruating, you learned that you’re going to undergo changes in your body that are uncomfortable for about five days every month. It’s a fact of life for women. But experiencing extreme pain and other debilitating side effects during your period is not something that you need to accept. You may have a very real condition called dysmenorrhea that can be treated, once it’s diagnosed by a leading Brooklyn gynecologist at Century Medical and Dental Center.
Dysmenorrhea is a gynecological condition that causes severe and frequent menstrual cramps. The pain feels like an intense throbbing or cramping in your lower abdomen, and it can last for a full 24 hours on the first day of your period. Over the next two or three days, the pain decreases to a dull aching discomfort.
For some women, the discomfort is moderate and tolerable. But for others, the pain is so crippling that women can’t go about their daily activities. Painful menses often lead to pain in other parts of the body too, such as:
- Generalized back pain
- Severe lower back pain or nagging upper back pain
- Knee pain from shooting stabs that travel down your legs
- Hip pain when you move differently to compensate for the discomfort
- Overall pelvic pain
- Searing migraines
Conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, stomach disorders and high cholesterol and triglycerides exacerbate your symptoms still further. Other health issues that intensify during your period when you suffer from dysmenorrhea include:
Risk Factors for Painful Periods
Your experienced Brooklyn gynecologist at Century Medical and Dental Center is familiar with all the potential causes for painful periods and abnormal uterine bleeding. She know what to look for and often finds that the cause is based on several risk factors, such as you:
- Are younger than 30 years old
- Got your first period at the age of 11 or younger
- Have never been pregnant
- Suffer from prolonged menstrual bleeding
- Have irregular periods
- Have a family history of women suffering from painful periods
Unhealthy lifestyle habits can impact your risk of developing severe menstrual cramps as well. Smoking, taking illegal drugs and drinking alcohol, especially during your period, can make you vulnerable. Obesity is another big factor, because it usually indicates a poor diet and lack of sufficient exercise.
Types of Dysmenorrhea
In healthy women, menstrual cramps occur because of the production of prostaglandins in the lining of the uterus. At the beginning of your monthly period, the prostaglandins production is high and can lead to primary dysmenorrhea, a fairly common, though uncomfortable condition. Typically, the pain subsides as you start shedding blood. As you grow older and after you give birth, the production of prostaglandins and the level of pain during your periods lessen.
Secondary dysmenorrhea occurs when your painful menstrual cramps are due to an underlying medical condition. In these cases, you find the pain to be more severe and last longer than normal. You may start getting cramps before your period that last during the entire cycle. Often, the cramps continue for days after your period, too.
Medical conditions that can cause these types of menstrual cramps include:
- Uterine fibroids
- Pelvic inflammatory disease
- Ectopic pregnancy
- Ovarian polyps
- Endometrial polyps
- Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS)
- Ovarian cysts
- Pelvic prolapse
How to Stop Period Cramps
In addition to looking for abnormal Pap smear results during your examination, your doctor may also order additional tests to find the cause of your dysmenorrhea before recommending the proper treatment. Tests may include:
- Ultrasound to produce a sonogram
- Hysteroscopy as a last resort
The first step is to address any underlying medical conditions your doctor uncovers that may be causing the extreme discomfort you undergo every month. Once those issues have been resolved or if no other medical reasons appear to be causing your painful periods, your doctor may recommend some at-home treatments to relieve your suffering, such as:
- Placing a hot water bottle or heating pad on your abdomen
- Doing low-impact exercises, like yoga or walking, to relieve stress
- Adding vitamin B1 and magnesium supplements to your daily regimen
- Getting a massage that focuses on your back, legs and stomach
- Taking non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen that target prostaglandins
- Starting on birth control pills, vaginal rings or patches to control your hormone levels
- Beginning a round of gonadotropin-releasing hormone agonists
Take Steps to Prevent Painful Periods
You may be referred to the Brooklyn physical therapy clinic at Century Medical and Dental Center to get help developing a weight loss and exercise program. Smoking cessation or substance abuse guidance may be suggested if appropriate. In rare cases, if you don’t plan on getting pregnant, you may decide to undergo a hysterectomy that will stop your periods permanently.
You don’t have to wait for your annual physical exam to talk to your gynecologist about your cramping and other associated symptoms. Contact Century Medical and Dental Center for an appointment to ask your practitioner in Brooklyn how to stop painful period cramps.