Menstrual cramps, also known as dysmenorrhea or period pains, are painful sensations felt in the lower abdomen that can occur both before and during a woman's menstrual period. The pain ranges from dull and annoying to severe and extreme. Menstrual cramps tend to begin after an egg is released from the ovaries and travels down the fallopian tube (ovulation).
There are two primary types of these difficult or painful periods - primary 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.
Fast facts on menstrual cramps
Here are some key points about menstrual cramps. More detail and supporting information is in the main article.
§ Menstrual cramps are pains felt in the lower abdomen, occurring both before and during a woman's menstrual period.
§ The pain can be slight or sometimes extremely severe.
§ There are two types of painful periods - primary and secondary dysmenorrhea.
§ About 15% of women describe menstrual pain as severe.
§ Emotional stress tends to increase the chance of experiencing menstrual cramps.
§ Symptoms of menstrual cramp include cramps, nausea, vomiting, sweating, dizziness, headachesand diarrhea.
§ Menstrual cramps are easily identified without the help of a physician.
§ Menstrual cramps can be treated with over-the-counter medicine.
§ Physicians agree that continuous oral contraceptive therapy to manage menstruation is safe and acceptable.
§ A healthy diet together with regular exercise can help prevent menstrual cramps.
Who gets menstrual cramps?
About half of women experience menstrual cramps, and about 15% describe the pain as severe. It has been shown that women who do not exercise experience more painful menstrual cramps.
Certain psychological factors such as emotional stress may also increase the likelihood of having uncomfortable menstrual cramps. Additional risk factors for these cramps include:
§ Being younger than 20 years of age
§ Starting puberty at age 11 or younger
§ Menorrhagia - heavy bleeding during periods
§ Never given birth.
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