Menstrual Cramps: How to Deal

Step Three: Get moving

Although it may seem like getting out of bed is the last thing you want to do when cramps strike, it might be the best thing for you. According to Clarkin, exercise is a great home remedy, though doctors haven’t yet pinpointed why. “Exercise helps your body produce endorphins, but it’s also just a good distraction [from the pain],” she says. “Dancing, cardio, and a lot of muscle conditioning have always kept my body in check, and they're activities that have been especially useful for me when I do cramp up,” says University of Chicago collegiette Annie. “It's tough for the first few minutes, but you just need to get into your workout and then your cramps go away. A lot of the time, they're even less intense after you finish working out as well.” No need to run to the gym though—click here for quick exercises you can do in your dorm room. Another way to get the endorphins flowing? Believe it or not—having sex. “It sounds surprising, but sex always helps me! Because endorphins act as natural painkillers, any sort of stimulation can help relieve cramps,” Elizabeth, a student at University of Virginia, says. That being said, you should probably stick to this remedy before your period comes or when it is winding down and very light (or try the shower) to avoid a mess.

Step Four: Monitor your diet

During your period, your entire system can be a little off-kilter. Because of all of the hormonal shifts that are going on inside of you, pre-existing conditions like irritable bowel syndrome can be exacerbated during menstruation. Even if you don’t have a sensitive stomach, your period can trigger diarrhea and constipation. “Avoid foods that contain caffeine or salt. An increase in salt causes the body to retain more water, causing bloating in the abdomen. Caffeinated beverages, such as coffee or tea, may disrupt the blood supply to muscles leading to more cramping pain,” Clarkin says. So when you’re looking for hot drinks, skip the latte until your period is over. A soothing herbal tea will give you the heat you want without the side effects. Avoiding salty and fatty foods is also incredibly helpful. So put down the cheeseburger and try something a bit healthier. Bananas and oats are two foods known for their cramp-fighting powers, so whip yourself up a bowl of oatmeal with sliced banana to soothe your stomach.

What if nothing seems to work?

If you’ve tried heat, eating well, light exercise and painkillers and nothing is working, see your doctor. “If menstrual cramps disrupt your life for several days a month, or the cramping becomes severe or unusual, you should contact your healthcare provider for evaluation,” Clarkin says. There are tons of remedies for cramps: your gynecologist or primary care doctor can prescribe you birth control, which helps alleviate cramps for many women. Doctors can also prescribe stronger painkillers if a typical NSAID is not effective. Further, if your cramps are particularly severe (like when you’re missing several classes each month because of them), that could be an indication of secondary dysmenorrhea, which warrants further medical attention.

 

So when cramps sneak up on you, try some of these tips to get relief! And remember, they do go away within a few days.