Dysmenorrhea refers to menstrual cramps. It is the result of uterine contractions, and while many women experience only mild dysmenorrhea, others experience incapacitating pain. If your menstrual cramps prevent you from engaging in your normal day to day activities, make an appointment with your gynecology office. In the meantime, here are some treatment options for your dysmenorrhea that you can try at home to keep you more comfortable.
Medications known as COX-2 inhibitors are very effective in relieving dysmenorrhea pain. Over-the-counter COX-2 inhibitors include ibuprofen, aspirin, and naproxen sodium. If you take prescription anticoagulants, which are also known as blood-thinning medications to lower your risk for blood clots, strokes, or heart attacks, talk to your doctor before taking COX-2 inhibitors.
Taking anticoagulants with COX-2 inhibitors may raise your risk for abnormal bleeding, including bleeding from the urinary tract, gastrointestinal tract, nose, gums, and brain. COX-2 inhibitors are usually well-tolerated by most people who take them, however, they can cause side effects such as a runny nose, stomach upset, trouble sleeping, swelling of your extremities, and dizziness.
Applying a heating pad on your pelvic or lower abdominal area will help promote circulation, ease uterine contractions, and relieve pain. You can also apply a hot water bottle to your lower back for further relief because dysmenorrhea can also cause back and leg pain. If using a heating pad, be sure to use it on the lowest setting, and turn it off before going to sleep so that you do not burn yourself.
An effective alternative to heating pads and hot water bottles include thermal packs that you can purchase at your local pharmacy or grocery store. Some thermal packs are intended for a single-use, while others can be used multiple times. While heat therapy is generally the most comforting, some women prefer cold therapy. If your menstrual cramps respond better to cold, apply an ice pack over the painful areas or try an over-the-counter cold pack that can be purchased at the same places heat packs are available.
If COX-2 inhibiting medication and heat or cold therapy fail to bring relief, call your doctor. After a comprehensive examination, he or she may order diagnostic tests such as an ultrasound to determine if you have a gynecological medical condition that may be responsible for your pain. Medical conditions that can cause dysmenorrhea include endometriosis, a condition where your endometrial tissue spreads to other areas of your body, including your ovaries, bladder, and bowel.