Menstruation is a perfectly natural part of life for most people with a uterus. However, in the last few years, it seems that intense period pain has come to be an expected accompaniment. While some pain and cramps are to be expected, intense pain should not be seen as the standard. Excessively painful periods could be indicative of a period disorder which would need to be diagnosed and treated in order to provide you with some relief. Let’s get into it.
Why Are Periods Painful?
Normal period pain can be attributed to two things, indirect pain associated with changes caused by menstruation and cramps within the reproductive tract. The muscle contractions or cramps in the womb are there to help the built-up uterine lining detach so that it can shed. The cramps do vary in pain and length, typically lasting for a minute or two, although they can last for up to several minutes or be as short as a few seconds. They are often experienced as waves, coming and going throughout the length of your period.
The other form of pain associated with the changes that menstruation can cause in the body can be seen in a number of different areas. These pains are often thought of as more of a consistent ache. For example, tender breasts, stomach aches, back pain and even an ache in the thighs are all common pains associated with periods. They tend to be caused by the hormones secreted by the body during periods, general inflammation, disruptions to the digestive tract and water retention. These pains also tend to vary both in length and severity too.
What Are Menstrual Disorders?
Menstrual disorders are actually pretty self-explanatory; it is a disorder or condition that affects the female reproductive system, which in turn disturbs the menstrual cycle and potentially affecting fertility. It is these menstrual disorders that usually cause undue pain during your period, and they do differ from other period problems. There are a few common disorders, like endometriosis and fibroids.
Abnormal growths which develop in or near the female reproductive system are known as fibroids. They do tend to be somewhat common, but most people go through life without knowing that they are there because their symptoms tend to be pretty similar to that of a period. The size of the growth itself is what determines your pain level. During menstruation, the fibroids tend to get more inflamed, which is what causes the pain.
Endometriosis is also characterised by growths. However, the growths, in this case, are comprised of your uterine tissues growing in places where they shouldn’t. They tend to be found within the reproductive system, like the fallopian tubes, but they may, in fact, grow in another place completely. The cells continue to go through their monthly growth and shed process regardless of where they are located. Depending on where the growths are located, they might not have anywhere to go, which can cause excruciating pain.
Visiting the Doctor & Securing a Diagnosis
Truthfully, period pain, to some extent, is normal, and after all, pain is subjective; what is excruciating to one might be manageable to another. This is, in part, why it tends to take so long for people to be diagnosed with menstrual disorders. The distinguishing factor tends to be the length and severity of the pain. Menstrual cramps should not last that long. If you are experiencing unrelenting cramps, then you should visit the doctor. If you experience pain during other activities like sex, then this could also indicate a menstrual disorder. Finally, if you struggle to control the pain with over-the-counter painkillers and other remedies, then it is also worth seeing a medical professional.
Doing your research before heading to the doctor can prove to be invaluable. Learning more about endometriosis from trusted sources like Patient can help to ensure that you are armed with all the knowledge that you need. Diagnosing a menstrual disorder can be a long process, and it can be invasive at times. It often includes blood tests and physical exams as well as exploratory tests like ultrasounds and x-rays. Do not get discouraged. A lot of people do end up having to fight for a diagnosis; however, after securing it, you are one step closer to having a treatment plan that can help you to effectively manage your condition.
Period pain is, unfortunately, simply part of the menstruation process for the most part. There really isn’t anything that you can do to remove or alleviate the pain entirely, but with the right tactics, you should be able to manage it. That being said, if painkillers or taking a hot bath do not work to alleviate your pain, then it might be worth exploring whether you do have a menstrual disorder. Diagnosis is the first step.