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Don’t Let Cramps ‘Cramp’ Your Style: 5 Ways To Prevent and Manage Period Pain

Don’t let cramps keep you on the sidelines. Check out these tips to keep them under control.

The first time I got cramps I thought it was a muscle ache. My mom had warned me that I might experience some pain in my lower abdomen, but the dull ache I felt in my abdomen, lower back, and legs was unexpected. I took some ibuprofen and went to bed, certain I had overworked myself in gym class.

I soon learned that the way I felt that day—while normal for some women—was more than just the result of one too many jumping jacks. Cramps became an expected part of every month’s period, sometimes showing up even before my period. (That’s also normal for some in case that’s you!). And it always happened at the worst times: right before a presentation at school, during soccer practice, or as I was trying to fall asleep. Once, I had to skip a friend’s roller skating birthday party because just the idea of twirling around a room with cramps made me feel exhausted. Eventually, I learned to manage my cramps so I didn’t have to miss out anymore.

Don’t let cramps keep you on the sidelines. Here’s a few ways to get them under control.

Plan Ahead: If you are someone who always gets cramps, the best method for stopping them is preventing them from starting in the first place. A day or two before your period is supposed to start, begin taking over the counter ibuprofen tablets. Most women can take up to four of the 200mg tablets (800mg per dose) up to every six to eight hours safely. Doing this consistently can actually stop cramps in their tracks and our health expert Molly gives this practice the OK! If your period is less predictable, don’t wait until your cramps get bad to take medication. Taking something at the first sign of pain will save you from suffering later.

Heat It Up: One of the best methods for relieving cramps is heat. A heating pad, or a “rice bag” (you can make your own!) works wonders. Or take a hot shower or bath. When I have bad cramps I use it as an excuse to pamper myself. I light candles, play soft music, and slip into a warm bath. Sometimes I try and imagine myself in a spa—which brings me to my next suggestion.

Distract Yourself: You aren’t going to feel better if all you can focus on is how bad you feel. Getting rid of cramps takes time, and no pain relief technique is going to work instantly.  My go-to-method for surviving particularly bad cramps is to take pain killers, throw on a heating pad, and turn on my favorite movie. Most of the time I get so into the movie that I barely notice when the pain subsides. Don’t have time for a movie? Meditating, imaging yourself somewhere relaxing, or even singing along to a few songs on the radio can move your mind off the pain in a pinch.

Be Good To Your Body: When you feel bad it may be tempting to binge on some unhealthy comfort food. Resist the urge! Stuffing your face with sweets or salty snacks will only make you feel worse. If you overdo it, you may end up feeling bloated and crampy—and nobody has time for that! It is also important to stay hydrated, as the discomfort you feel may be from water retention (that sometimes happens on your period) and drinking water can help get things flowing again. Warm water or tea has always helped me.

Head To The Doctor: Unfortunately I got to a point when my typical tricks for relieving cramps weren’t working anymore. No amount of heating pads, hot tea or positive thoughts helped my pain. On top of that, I started feeling extremely nauseous and sometimes vomiting whenever I got cramps. Back then, no one ever told me that super bad cramps could be a sign that something is wrong so I didn’t see my healthcare provider right away.  I figured I just had to play the hand I was dealt when it came to period pain. When I finally did see my healthcare provider, she discovered that my increasingly bad cramps were caused by a medical issue—which was completely fixable! I got treatment and now I am happy to say that I hardly ever get cramps. So I will leave you with this final piece of advice. If your cramps are severely interfering with your life, or you just have questions about what is normal, don’t wait —head to your healthcare provider now. It was the best decision I ever made.

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This is not intended to be medical advice. Everybody is different so please make sure to consult your physician if you're having issues. Do not delay or refrain from seeking professional medical advice from your physician because of something you have read on this site.