Other self-help measures include taking warm baths or showers, drinking warm beverages, and giving yourself a light massage by making circular motions with your fingertips around your lower abdomen. Make sure to schedule free time for yourself to relax and take care of yourself during the time of the month when you expect your periods.
Eating light, frequent meals and following a diet that is rich in complex carbohydrates (whole grains, fruits, and vegetables) and low in salt, sugar, alcohol, and caffeine also helps reduce painful menstruation for some women. It’s especially important for women who experience bloating or fluid retention during menstruation to lower their salt consumption, since excess salt intake can cause fluid retention.
Regular physical activity works wonders at reducing many of the symptoms of PMS, including menstrual cramps. If you’re under stress, like many of us are, you might also want to learn to distress and relax your body and mind through meditation or yoga.
Anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen, which are available without a prescription, often provide effective relief from painful menstrual cramps.
If you have PMS as well as menstrual cramps, you may want to try taking supplements such as vitamin B complex, essential fatty acids, calcium, and magnesium. The following supplemental amounts are in addition to the amount in a daily multi-vitamin and mineral supplement, which all women should take regularly:
- 1200 mg of calcium in two divided doses
- 250 mg of magnesium
(If you experience constipation or diarrhea while taking magnesium, talk to your doctor. You may need to increase or decrease the amount of magnesium you take.)
- Supplemental vitamin B6 varies from 50 to 200 mg
- 50 mg of vitamin B1
Finally, some women find it helpful to keep their knees bent whenever they are lying down, which reduces the stretching of the pelvic muscles. If you sleep on your back, use a pillow under your knees to keep your legs bent. If you’re a side sleeper, try holding a pillow pressed to your lower abdomen with your knees bent.
Painful Menstrual Periods; Medline Plus Medical Encyclopedia; http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/003150.htm; accessed 05/21/08. Cyclic Perimenstrual Pain and Discomfort: Nursing Management. Evidence Based Clinical psPractice Guideline; http://www.guidelines.gov/summary/summary.aspx?doc_id=7199&nbr=004302; accessed 06/23/08