- Home remedies for periods include heat therapy, OTC pain relievers, massage, and more.
- An overall healthy diet and regular exercise can decrease period pain.
- A healthcare provider should evaluate excessive period pain that does not resolve with at-home care.
Home remedies for period cramps range from common over-the-counter pain relievers to heating pads and more. For most people, period cramps can respond well to at-home care.
In this article, we’ll explore eight ways to manage period cramping pain at home, plus ways to prevent menstrual cramps. In some cases, period pain can be extreme and may need more than home remedies to alleviate it. If period pain does not respond to home remedies, consult a medical provider.
Home Remedies for Menstrual Cramps
Not everyone experiences period pain. But it can impact anywhere between 16-91% of people with vaginas who are of reproductive age. As many as 29% of menstruating adults and 40% of menstruating adolescents may have severe period pain.
The following home remedies for period cramps may be effective, though some may work better than others based on individual needs.
OTC pain relievers can help relieve cramping discomfort. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen (Advil) and naproxen (Aleve) are more effective than acetaminophen (Tylenol). NSAIDs help decrease prostaglandins, compounds produced in the uterus around menstruation that trigger period pain and cramping.
Be sure to follow dosage instructions for each pain reliever and do not take more than the maximum daily amount in a 24-hour period. If OTC pain relievers are not strong enough, a medical provider can prescribe ibuprofen at a higher dose, as well as other pain relieving options.
Apply a heating pad
Heat therapy may be effective for reducing period pain. A meta-analysis of six randomized controlled trials found that heating pads or heat patches could be as effective as NSAID pain relievers for addressing period pain.
There are many ways to utilize heat for period pain relief:
- Electric heat pad
- Infrared heat pad
- Microwavable clay or rice heat pad
- Hot water bottle
- Heat patches
- Hot bath or shower
It is safe to apply heat as long or as often as needed. If you are using a heating pad, make sure that your skin is covered with a layer of clothing or cloth in between. Your skin may turn pinkish from the heat, but be sure to avoid overheating the skin. Always follow instructions for heat patches. Do not go to sleep with an electric or plugged-in heating pad.
Cramping from period pain can be relieved by using self-massage on the abdomen. You can use massage oil and add essential oils for added aromatherapy.
Massaging the uterine area and the hips, lower back, and upper thighs can help decrease muscle tension. Aromatherapy massage can be more effective at relieving period pain than a placebo. Essential oils to consider include:
Never massage with undiluted essential oils, as they can irritate or burn the skin. They should always be blended with carrier oil. For every 1 teaspoon of carrier oil, add 1 drop of essential oil.
Carrier oils can include:
- Coconut oil
- Almond oil
- Avocado oil
- Jojoba oil
- Grapeseed oil
Exercise may not sound appealing if you have cramps, but research shows that it can effectively reduce period pain. Exercise helps increase endorphins in the body, which can help to decrease pain from prostaglandins and tense muscles.
You shouldn’t aim for intense exercise. Moderate activities like walking, yoga, stretching, or light aerobic exercise can help without increasing pain or fatigue.
Avoid certain food
Some foods or beverages may worsen the discomfort associated with menstruation. While research studies don’t specifically associate the following with worse period pain, they can increase bloating, indigestion, or water retention, which may make you feel worse overall.
Foods or drinks to avoid if you experience period discomfort:
- Carbonated drinks
- Fatty foods or fried foods
- Excessive salt intake
Some herbs may help reduce period pain. Make sure you check with your healthcare provider before taking herbal supplements since they’re at much higher concentrations than herbal tea. Supplements can produce side effects or can interact with other medications.
Herbal teas that may be helpful include:
- Chamomile tea
- Ginger tea
Curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric, may also be helpful. Research studies showing benefits have been small, though. Larger studies need to be done to ensure that the results can be repeated. Curcumin taken for 7 days before a period and for 3 days after the start of menstruation can be helpful for PMS symptom relief.
Yoga can help address period pain by releasing endorphins as well as stretching tense muscles. According to a small study of 72 people, yoga edges out traditional aerobic exercise when it comes to targeted period pain relief. Certain yoga poses may be more effective, including:
- Child’s pose
- Cat-cow pose
- Cobra pose
Preventing Menstrual Cramps
It’s not always possible to prevent menstrual cramps. But lifestyle can have a significant impact on decreasing period pain.
There is no specific diet for avoiding period pain. However, certain types of foods and nutrients contribute to better overall health.
- Omega-3 fatty acids: These anti-inflammatory nutrients are found in seafood like salmon as well as flaxseed, walnuts, and chia seeds. They help the body have a more balanced inflammatory response, which could improve period pain and cramping. Research shows that omega-3 fish oil supplements can even decrease the need for NSAID pain relievers during menstruation. While fish oil supplements may be beneficial, it’s also important to get omega-3 fats from dietary sources.
- Fiber: A diet rich in fiber helps support better digestive function and overall health. Many people do not get enough fiber on a regular basis. As many as 95% of Americans do not get enough daily fiber. Foods like brown rice, vegetables, fruits, legumes, oats, and other whole grains contain fiber. Aim for 25 grams per day.
- Hydration: While water isn’t a food, being properly hydrated can help to decrease muscle cramps and overall pain, and bloating. You don’t have to drink a specific amount of water, but most people do well with 6-8 glasses of water or clear fluids per day. Your urine should be a light yellow color, indicating that your body is well-hydrated.
As mentioned above, exercise can help produce endorphins that improve pain perception. While you can exercise during period pain to alleviate cramps, making exercise a regular part of your everyday life may help to improve overall health in many ways, which could translate to reduced period pain:
- Decreased body weight
- Better flexibility with joint and muscle health
- Improved mood from neurotransmitter production
- Better sleep quality
You can’t always avoid period pain. But there are many lifestyle supports and home remedies that can make the pain more manageable.
If you try home remedies and find that nothing helps, or your period pain makes it hard to function normally, it’s time to see a medical provider.
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Curcumin attenuates severity of premenstrual syndrome symptoms: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. (2015).
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