Painful period cramps are a common menstrual symptom for many women. In fact, they’re so common that many women consider debilitating cramps a normal part of menstruation. But even though “it’s always been like that,” that doesn’t mean it has to continue.

What Happens During Menstruation

Every month, our bodies go through a process called a menstrual cycle.Your cycle begins on the first day of every month and ends at approximately 28 days. This time frame is different for every women, however, with other cycles lasting up to 35 days instead.

Menstruation happens to prepare the uterus for pregnancy. And as a result, your hormones levels adjust throughout the month to prepare. Hormones are an important part of the body. They act as messengers for the body, instructing it to perform certain functions such as metabolizing food, regulating body temperature — and of course, menstruation.

What Causes Painful Period Cramps?

There are many culprits behind painful periods, from an unhealthy diet to medical conditions such as endometriosis or pelvic inflammatory disease. But at the root of the problem are prostaglandins, chemicals that cause the muscles in our body to contract. For example, when a woman is in labor, prostaglandins instruct her cervix to dilate, inducing contractions.

And because the uterus is a muscular organ, an overproduction of prostaglandins can affect it, too. Which unfortunately is where painful period cramps come in. 

Painful period cramps are just that — a pain. And for many women, painkillers can only do so much. Here is what to know about painful period cramps, plus how to know when to see a doctor:


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Every Experience is Different

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Menstruation is a normal and natural part of reproduction. But unfortunately, it isn’t always talked about. And as a result, many women are left feeling confused or frustrated when their periods aren’t as easy-breezy as the commercials make them out to be.

But just like every woman is different, every period is different, too. For some women, their menstrual cycle is a slight inconvenience. For others, it’s a breeze. And some women experience painful or even debilitating menstrual symptoms that affect their everyday life.

Sometimes, the pain is so bad that they can’t go to work or school. They might even experience fainting spells that land them in the hospital.

Every body is different. And your experience will likely vary from someone else’s. For this reason, it’s important to listen to your body and do what feels best for you during your period.

Heat Reduces Pain

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Many women relieve period pain by taking over-the-counter pain medications such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen. Others find that applying heat to their lower abdomen with a heating pad, a hot water bottle, or by taking a hot bath helps alleviate the pain. This is because heat helps to relax the muscles in the uterus and increase blood circulation to reduce pain.

Try applying a heating pad on a low setting to your lower abdominal area or back for pain relief. Or if you don’t have a heating pad, you can heat an old sock filled with uncooked rice inside a microwave for a couple of minutes for a more affordable option that works just as well.

Hydration Helps

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According to a study of 2,000 Americans, less than three-quarters (22%) reported drinking the recommended eight to ten glasses of water per day. 

But water is important to our health. More than half of our bodies are made of it. Not to mention, it can be a godsend when it comes to alleviating menstrual symptoms.

Try drinking a glass (or two) or water to keep yourself hydrated. H2O helps decrease bloating that causes pain and other uncomfortable menstrual symptoms.

Other ways of incorporating more water into your diet include drinking teas or flavored waters. Cure is a flavored electrolyte mix that you can add to your water. Its formula contains quality ingredients such as coconut water powder and electrolytes for maximum hydration. Plus, there are a number of flavors to choose from, from berry-pomegrante to grapefruit. Even better, each packet contains no added sugars which means no added guilt!

Our pick: The Hydrating Electolyte Mix in Grapefruit flavor- a customer favorite!

Fight the Pain with Food

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Our bodies use the food that we eat for fuel to function. This is why maintaining a healthy diet is essential to maintaining our overall health.

And even though prostaglandins are an important part of the body, an overproduction can actually hurt you more than help you — i.e. painful period cramps.

You can combat the pain by eating foods that target those pesky prostaglandins. Try to incorporate more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds into your diet to lower prostaglandin levels.

Many women report switching to a plant-based diet helps dramatically improve their symptoms. However, if meatless Mondays aren’t your thing, try to limit your consumption of red meats. Instead, opt for leaner meats like chicken and fish.

When To Worry

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Menstrual cramps are common. In fact, more than half of women experience discomfort or pain to some degree. But debilitating menstrual pain is not normal. And when this happens, it may be time to consider seeing a doctor.

For many women, menstrual cramps are nothing to worry about. But if your pain becomes so severe that it interferes with your everyday life, it could be the sign of an underlying health problem.

You should also seek medical attention if your painful period cramps are accompanied by other symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Such symptoms can point to other health conditions such as endometriosis or uterine fibroids.