menstrual crampsMenstruation or ‘your period’ is a natural process, in which the lining of the uterus is changed about once a month, causing vaginal bleeding, stomach cramps and possibly other complaints. Women usually get their first period between the age of 8 and 16. How bad the complaints get during menstruation vary greatly from person to person.

Menstrual cramps are caused by contractions in the uterus, which is a muscle. The uterus, the hollow, pear-shaped organ where a baby grows, contracts throughout a woman’s menstrual cycle. If the uterus contracts too strongly, it can press against nearby blood vessels, cutting off the supply of oxygen to the muscle tissue of the uterus. Pain results when part of a muscle briefly loses its supply of oxygen.

Dysmenorrhea is the medical term for the painful cramps that may occur immediately before or during the menstrual period. There are two types of dysmenorrhea: primary dysmenorrhea and secondary dysmenorrhea.

Primary Dysmenorrhea is the most common type and is characterized by pain in the lower abdomen and lower back pain beginning 1-2 days before the period and lasting from 2-4 days. There is no underlying problem that is causing the pain.

Secondary Dysmenorrhea is characterized by cramping pains that are due to an identifiable medical problem such as endometriosis, uterine fibroids, or pelvic inflammatory disease.

What Are the Symptoms of Menstrual Cramps?
The symptoms of menstrual cramps include:

* Aching pain in the abdomen (Pain can be severe at times.)
* Feeling of pressure in the abdomen
* Pain in the hips, lower back, and inner thighs
When cramps are severe, symptoms may include:

* Upset stomach, sometimes with vomiting
* Loose stools

Ideas for Menstrual Cramp Relief
1. Turn up the heat. Take a hot bath, or place a heating pad or hot water bottle on your lower belly, just below your belly button.
2. Limit caffeine. Ladies who have a lot of menstrual cramps and PMS symptoms are advised to limit caffeine.
3. Exercise and stretch. It loosens up your muscles and eases the pain.
4. Medicate. Try an over-the-counter pain reliever. These medicines can help make the cramps less severe.
5. Improve your diet. Some research indicates that certain foods can help mitigate menstrual pain. Tips include foods high in calcium and antioxidants, fewer processed foods (lay off on that wonder bread), less caffeine, alcohol, and tobacco — which we know are all poison anyway — and more water.