Extremely painful period cramps also referred to as Primary Dysmenorrhea is medically defined as cramping discomfort or pain in the region of the uterus right before and/or during the time a woman menstruates "in the absence of other diseases such as endometriosis.
“ Statistics cite that as high as 90% of women will experience moderate to extremely painful periods at some point within their menstruating years.
Menstruation for women can begin as early as the age of 8, and is almost always prevalent by the age of 15, thought the national average tends to be at the age of 12 and often comes soon after the development of breasts is present.
Girls who have not experienced their first menstruation onset by the age of 15 are encouraged to see their physician as this can indicate other health issues. For women their menstrual cycle will
continue throughout their lives until they begin the menopause phase which differs from woman to woman; generally menopause will begin as early as age 45 but as late as 55, with the average hovering around age 50.
On average a woman will endure her menstrual cycle every 28 days or thereabout and the length of a period ranges from 3 to 5 days, though this estimation varies from woman to woman with some having shorter periods, while others a bit longer. Periods that last longer than 7 days are sometimes an indication that something else medically is going on in the body so it is a good idea to seek the opinion of a physician.
Symptoms that accompany a normal period vary not only in how many are present during a single menstrual period but the severity as well. During her menstrual cycle and sometimes right before onset, physical and emotional changes will occur.
Physical symptoms of menstruation include: breast tenderness, mild cramping, retaining water or bloating, headaches, slight to sever acne, discharge about the nipples and sleeping or eating habit changes.
Emotional symptoms include: restlessness, sudden and sometimes severe mood shifts and changes, depression, irritability and increased aggression. Symptoms during the menstrual cycle tend to lessen by the second or third day of the cycle.
As previously stated the severity of a woman’s menstrual cycle varies and some women experience debilitating symptoms during their cycle which can have extreme effects on their daily lives and can be quite unmanageable depending on the severity. Women who experience extremely painful periods are often diagnosed with Primary Dysmenorrhea, a serious medical condition.
Primary Dysmenorrhea is all too often misdiagnosed and undertreated further complicating the woman’s experiences and overall quality of life. Experts ascertain that as many as 90% of women will experience this disorder and extremely painful periods at some point during their menstrual history.
The early signs of dysmenorrhea usually develop during the adolescent ages and grow more severe with passing time. The most notable symptom is acute pain in the lower region of the abdomen prior to or during the menstrual cycle when the woman has not been diagnosed with other illnesses such as endometriosis.
This disorder is the result of the endometrial prostaglandin over producing in which case the uterus sustains more acute and regular contractions. These contractions can be quite severe and interfere in a woman’s overall well being and daily activities.
Although it carries severe pain, dysmenorrhea is more common that people are aware of and many women do not report their severe cramping to their physicians at all. In one study conducted on a college campus for the length of a year, 72% of the women who participated cited that they experienced painful periods with acute cramping for at least the first day of menstruation.
Dysmenorrhea often is so severe that women must abstain from regular daily activities such as physical sports, attending work or school or general extracurricular activities. In some cases it is reported that merely getting out of bed and completing tasks such as personal hygiene is nearly or entirely impossible.
A 1996 longitudinal study on a college campus cited that 42% of the female participants admitted to refraining from activities for at least one day; a lesser percentage reported missing work or classes. Older studies conducted have shown that dysmenorrhea has directly attributed to roughly 600 women on average missing or being absent from work at least one time during menstruation.
Symptoms of dysmenorrea
In addition to severe cramping which causes extreme period pain, other symptoms are often reported with this dysmenorrheal. Along with the steady and intermitted period cramps women have also reported nausea, vomiting, severe or acute back pain that can travel to the hip and leg regions, fever, headaches and overall feelings of fatigue.
Losses of appetite, insomnia and emotional imbalances have also been reported. Generally these symptoms will be present as soon as the menstrual cycle begins and the pain is most severe mid-cycle when bleeding is the heaviest.
During these episodes many women experience unusually heavy bleeding and blood clots are present. The size of blood clots will also vary in size, shape and color. Blood clots occur because during menstruation a woman’s uterus begins to shed its lining as it prepares for pregnancy.
This happens regardless of whether the woman is using measures to abstain from getting pregnant. Regardless, the female body will begin the preparation process. Within the uterus lining blood is also present and is discharged along with the lining, thus sometimes forming a blood clot.
On average a woman will lose between 4 and 12 teaspoons of blood with every cycle. The presence of blood clots is generally nothing to be concerned about. The color will vary from light red to a darker brown color and are about the size of a quarter or smaller. During the menstrual cycle the female body will release what is called anticoagulants which keeps the blood thin and prevents harsh clotting.
Sometimes however particularly when a female’s blood flow is extremely heavy blood clots will still form. Physicians caution that if blood clots become larger in diameter than a quarter a medical visit is necessary to determine if other illnesses have emerged or developed.
Treatment of dysmenorrhea
There are myriad treatments for this disorder. One promising study conducted on 497 women who were given low and medium dosages of estrogen revealed that the vast amount of recipients claimed their acute symptoms has lessened greatly.
Other studies have had preliminary positive results with the use of daily intake of Omega 3 fish oil vitamins. A study conducted with adolescents who suffered from dysmenorrheal for a two month period who were given Omega 3 supplements daily. Followed by a two month period of being given a placebo resulted in a vast reduction of painful symptoms when taking
Omega 3 in comparison to no reduction reported while on the placebos.
Holistic and natural treatments include fennel seed, applying heat to the stomach region and back and patients are also encouraged to stick to a diet rich in fiber, fish, grains and fruits. Regular exercise has also been linked with symptoms subsiding.
In cases where women seek treatment and help for extremely painful periods and dysmenorrheal is not diagnosed, approximately 10% of fertile women and upwards of 50% of infertile women are diagnosed with a benign disorder called endometriosis.
Endometriosis is an indication that endometrial glandular as well as stromal cells are located in the region of the uterus that is not normal. These abnormalities are often found outside the uterus, near the bowel, within the pelvic peritoneum or the ovaries.
Endometriosis is diagnosed by an examine that investigates and examines the uterus and other pelvic organs by a licensed medical doctor. Although treatable, studies conducted throughout 1990 and 1998 concluded that the morbidity rate was high; endometriosis was the third highest diagnosis recorded in discharge summaries in hospitals.
The cause of endometriosis is largely unknown but has been found to be attributed to "retrograde reflux of the menstrual tissue from the fallopian tubes during menstruation." Other linked causations are also currently being supported and researched.
The symptoms of endometriosis include heavy menstrual periods, acute pelvic pain, uncomfortable back pain, pain during bowel movements and dyspareunia.
Treatments for endometriosis include taking anti-inflammatory medications, oral contraceptive pills (birth control) as well as other androgenic medications and progestogens at recommended dosages by a doctor. Extreme cases of this disorder may require surgery and follow up care.
Some women are not diagnosed with any medical disorder and unfortunately just experience more painful periods than others. When this is the case there are myriad treatment methods than can be utilized in order to decrease severe menstrual pain and symptoms.
Treatment of painful periods
Heavy bleeding accompanied by blood clots can be unpleasant. Some vitamins and natural supplements have been proven effective in reducing the pain associated with painful periods such as:
• Vitamin B 6 & 1
• Vitamin E
• Omega 3
Additionally some studies have also found that with regular acupuncture treatments symptoms were also greatly reduced or diminished completely. The Mayo Clinic conducted studies and found that ingesting prescribed doses of anti-inflammatory medications as well as taking oral contraceptives was successful at reducing and eliminating painful period symptoms.
The University of Maryland Medical Center suggests a host of treatments for painful period which include dietary changes and maintaining a diet supple in grains, fruits, vegetables and fish while abstaining from smoking, drinking alcohol or eating foods dense in fats. Eating smaller and more frequent meals is also helpful. Drinking warm beverages particularly teas which have natural antioxidants is recommended.
Hot compresses to the abdomen, relaxation practices such as Reiki and Yoga and light exercise incorporating pelvic movements has been found to relieve many menstrual symptoms including emotional instabilities.
Suffering from bad period pains is never pleasant, however with medications, holistic treatments, supplements and prescribed medications your overall well being can vastly improve. Should none of these methods relieve symptoms it is suggested to schedule an appointment with a physician to rule out other medical diagnosis and begin a supervised treatment plan.