Menstrual period pain is caused by the uterus contracting and compressing the blood vessels in the muscle wall. The rhythmic contractions help the lining of the wall to detach so that it can be shed from the body. These contractions cut off the supply of blood to the womb which starves it of oxygen and adds to the discomfort caused by the contracting uterus. Most women will suffer from some degree of menstrual pain every month. This is medically known as primary dysmenorrhea. For some, the level of pain is manageable, and they can get on with their lives as usual. For others, the pain is debilitating and makes the monthly visit of Aunt Flo a truly unbearable occurrence. If you fall into the latter camp and you would rather avoid painkillers, read on for three natural ways to manage your monthly pain.
Get Enough Vitamin D3
Rather than a cure, this is a possible prevention. In 2012, an Italian study found that women who were given a high dose of cholecalciferol (300,000 IUs) 5 days before the start of their menstrual period showed a noticeable reduction in pain. D3 is the sunshine vitamin acquired via the skin's exposure to the sun. However, for those who don't see much sun, a vitamin supplement can provide an adequate amount of D3. As many as 58% of Australians are believed to be D3 deficient, so it's worth getting your levels checked and boosting your intake of this vitamin regardless of its pain reduction benefits.
Get Your Body Moving
It seems counter-intuitive to try moving when you're in pain. However, many kinds of exercise can help to ease your menstrual pain. Exercise causes your body to release feel-good chemicals called endorphins. Endorphins work for pain relief by interacting with receptors in your brain, reducing your perception of pain. Endorphins also counteract prostaglandins, a chemical made by the body that helps the womb to contract. It is thought that women with period pain may have an excessive build-up of prostaglandin or that they may have extra sensitivity to the hormone.
Get Yourself a TENS Machine
Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation, or TENS machines, work by delivering a small pulse of electricity to the body via an electrode placed on the skin. These electrical pulses are believed to work in two ways. First, the electrical impulses disrupt the pain signals being sent to your brain — the fewer pain signals that get through, the less pain you perceive. Secondly, when used at a lower pulse rate of 2-5 Hz, the machine prompts your body to produce its own pain-easing endorphins. TENS machines come in a variety of shapes and sizes and are portable — this makes them easy to take with you wherever you need to go.