I’ve had painful periods ever since I was a teenager. Menstrual pain—scientifically referred to as dysmenorrhea—is experienced by up to 95% of women.
Like most women, I’ve tried different remedies; some attempts more successful than others.
Currently, I swear by chamomile tea and a hot water bottle. For me, the combination has a soothing effect that nurtures my body as well as my soul. It seems some gentle love and self-care goes a long way when you’re not feeling well.
If you’ve been looking for a good method to relieve menstrual cramps, here are some of the most common ones (including the evidence behind them).
- Heat: Heat therapy is probably the most popular method to alleviate period pain. A literature review published in Scientific Reports in 2018 suggested that heat is an effective modality for painful menstruations. In fact, three of the studies included in the review showed that the use of heating pads was more helpful than painkillers.
- 2. Exercise: According to a recent global survey that included over 14,000 women, almost 80% of them reported that moderate intensity exercise (exercise categorised as ‘hard breathing, able to hold a conversation’) reduced their period pain and other related symptoms. There’s no excuse anymore to spend the day binge-watching Netflix! A brisk walk might be a better idea if you want to ease the cramps and feel more energetic.
- Massage: Massage is another favourite among women experiencing cramps (and a part of the pampering, self-care package). One randomized control trial showed that effleurage massage with lavender oil reduced pain significantly. This type of massage is performed with gentle and rotary strokes. It’s known as a simple and soothing massage that is more easily tolerated by people who have pain. During that time of the month, why not book yourself a massage?
- Herbal teas: Teas are another staple in pain management. Chamomile, ginger, peppermint, and rose tea are most often mentioned in connection with period pain. I’ve also come across an interesting reference to a Traditional Chinese Medicine herbal formula known as Guizhi Fuling, which shows good results in some studies. Might be worth a try if you like TCM.
- Painkillers: If everything else fails, we’re all usually grateful for the pharmacological solutions. The NHS website suggests taking ibuprofen and aspirin for period pain. For stronger medication, you’ll need to see your GP.
And the winner is…I’ll leave that one to you. I stick with my hot water bottle and some calming tea. Though I wouldn’t mind a gentle massage on top.
 Jo, J., & Lee, S. H. (2018). Heat therapy for primary dysmenorrhea: A systematic review and meta-analysis of its effects on pain relief and quality of life. Scientific Reports, 8(1), Article number: 16252
 Azima, S., Bakhshayesh, H. R., Kaviani, M., Abbasnia, K., & Sayadi, M. (2015). Comparison of the effect of massage therapy and isometric exercises on primary dysmenorrhea: A randomized controlled clinical trial. Journal of Pediatric and Adolescent Gynecology, 28, 486–491.
 Sun, L., Liu, L., Zong, S., Wang, Z., Zhou, J., Xu, Z., … Kou, J. (2016). Traditional Chinese medicine Guizhi Fuling capsule used for therapy of dysmenorrhea via attenuating uterus contraction. Journal of Ethnopharmacology, 191, 273–279.