The Dysmenorrhea, also known as menstrual cramps, is a gynecological medical condition characterized by severe uterine pain during menstruation. It may be primary or secondary, depending on the presence or absence of structural changes in the reproductive tract. Dysmenorrhea (menstrual cramps) can feature different kinds of pain, including sharp, throbbing dull, nauseating, burning or sharp. Dysmenorrhea may precede menstruation by several days or may accompany it, and usually subsides as menstruation tapers off. You can also coexist with excessively heavy blood loss, known as menorrhagia.
Primary dysmenorrhea is one that occurs without damage to the pelvic organs. Usually occurs in normal menstrual cycles and after the first menstruation in adolescence, ceasing or reducing significantly when a woman reaches the age of 20 or so years. In some cases this only occurs after pregnancy. It is caused by increased production of prostaglandins by the uterus, causing painful uterine contractions. Secondary dysmenorrhea is related to changes in the reproductive system, endometriosis is the most common cause. Other causes include leoimiomia of dysmenorrhea, adenomyosis, ovarian cysts and pelvic congestion. The presence of an IUD may also cause of menstrual cramps.
The main symptom of dysmenorrhea is pain concentrated in the abdomen, the navel or abdomen in the suprapubic region. It is also commonly felt in the abdomen right or left. The pain may radiate to the thighs and lower back. Other symptoms of dysmenorrhea may include nausea and vomiting, diarrhea or constipation, headache, dizziness, disorientation, hypersensitivity to light, sound, smell and touch, fainting and fatigue. Symptoms of dysmenorrhea usually begin soon after ovulation and may last until the end of menstruation. This is because dysmenorrhea is often associated with changes in hormone levels in the body that occur with ovulation. The use of certain types of birth control pills can prevent the symptoms of dysmenorrhea, because birth control pills can stop ovulation. In states of emotional fragility, menstrual pain can be worse.
During the woman’s menstrual cycle, the endometrium thickens to prepare for a potential pregnancy. After ovulation, if the egg is not fertilized, the internal tissues of the uterus do not become necessary, therefore expelled. Molecular compounds called prostaglandins are released during menstruation due to destruction of the endometrial cells and the release of their waste. The release of prostaglandins and other inflammatory mediators in the uterus causes the uterus to contract. These substances are important factor in primary dysmenorrhea. When there is contraction of the uterine muscle, they constrict the blood supply to the tissue of the endometrium, which, in turn, breaks down and dies. The dead endometrial tissue out through the cervix and uterus are expelled from the body through the vagina. Such contractions are responsible for the pain felt during menstruation. Natural relief for menstrual cramps includes herbs, home remedies, vitamins and minerals, teas and another therapies.
Several nutritional supplements have been shown to be effective in the treatment of dysmenorrhea, including omega-3 fatty acids, magnesium, vitamin E, zinc and thiamine (vitamin B1). In addition, the use of herbal therapies and can mean a significant pain relief. See above home remedies and natural reliefs for menstrual cramps:
- Omega-3 – The research indicates that a mechanism underlying dysmenorrhea is an imbalance between anti-inflammatory, vasodilator eicosanoids derived from omega-3 fatty acids, and proinflammatory, vasoconstrictor – (Xu L, Liu SL, Zhang JT – 2005) . Several studies have indicated that intake of omega-3 fatty acids can reverse the symptoms of dysmenorrhea, decreasing the amount of omega-6 FA in cell membranes. The richest dietary source of omega-3 is found in flaxseed oil.
- Magnesium – The oral intake of magnesium intake has also been indicated for the relief of pain.
Vitamin E – A randomized controlled trial demonstrator that the oral intake of vitamin E relieves the pain of primary dysmenorrhea and reduces blood loss.
- Zinc – A review of case studies indicated that zinc, in 1-3 doses of 30 mg given daily for 1-4 days before the onset of menstruation, prevents almost all symptoms cramps menstrual cramps.
- Thiamine (Vitamin B1) – The intake of thiamine (vitamin B1) has been shown to assist women with dysmenorrhoea and had a healing effect in 87% of cases.
- Anti-inflammatory – The non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are effective in relieving the pain of primary dysmenorrhea, but can have side effects such as nausea, dyspepsia, peptic ulcer and diarrhea. (In W, Wang X, Xu D, Zhao A, Zhang Y.
- Therapies (acupuncture) – Several non-drug therapies for dysmenorrhea have been studied, including acupuncture behavioral chiropractic and acupuncture. Acupuncture and acupressure are used to treat dysmenorrhea. A 2006 systematic review concluded that no evidence overall suggests that spinal manipulation is effective for the treatment of primary and secondary dysmenorrhea. Another method of pain relief of colic is the application of a hot water bottle directly into the affected area. Behavioral therapies assume that the physiological process underlying dysmenorrhea is influenced by environmental and psychological factors, and that dysmenorrhea can be treated effectively by means of physical and cognitive processes that focus on coping strategies for symptoms rather than the change in the processes underlying them. A 2007 systematic review found some scientific evidence that behavioral interventions can be effective, but the results should be viewed with caution due to poor data quality.
- Natural Teas and Medicinal Plants – Various medicinal teas and herbal extracts are traditionally used to relieve menstrual cramps. Natural herbs that relax the muscles, known as antispasmodic, contain phytochemicals that ease muscle spasms and helps relax the uterus. Many of these herbs also have a mild sedative effect, calming the nerves while relieving menstrual cramps.