I am sure our menstruating readers are no stranger to the use of painkillers as a way of fighting off period pain. In this article, we will discuss briefly about the use of painkillers, how they help with painful cramps and also discuss the good and the bad that comes with using painkillers in general.
A Brief look into Painkillers.
As the name suggests, painkillers are medicines used to relieve pain. They come in many forms such as creams, ointments and pills. In pharmacies, depending on the area and type of pain there are painkillers made of different substances and come with different recommended dosages.
It is common to use over-the-counter painkillers for simple pains, like headaches or menstrual cramps without needing a physician’s prescription. However, it is recommended that for any high-intensity pain, it is better one consults their general physician for an evaluation and an effective prescription.
Menstrual Cramp Pains.
To understand what type of painkillers one needs to take for painful cramps, we need to first look at its underlying cause.
Menstrual cramps are caused by chemicals called prostaglandins in the body. These chemicals are released by the uterine tissue and stimulate the contraction of the uterine muscles. The larger amount of prostaglandin released causes more intense contractions and thus more pain to the individual. Most of this release occurs during the first 48 hours of menstrual flow. Also, it is important to note that the thicker one's uterine lining is, the higher the concentration of prostaglandin is released.
As the pain that comes with menstrual cramps is caused by muscle contractions and muscle spasms, the types of painkillers that would be most effective are antispasmodics (‘anti’-against, ‘spasmodic’ - spasm causing) or muscle relaxants. Some common antispasmodics available are dicyclomine or cyclopam which is a combination of dicyclomine and paracetamol. Anti-inflammatory medications like ibuprofen (Advil) are also taken to help with menstrual cramps as they reduce the number of prostaglandins in the body.
Are painkillers the best option for you?
Nausea, headaches and drowsiness are the most common side effects that come with taking painkillers. A weakened immune system and lower pain tolerance is also something that comes along with taking painkillers regularly. There is also the risk of addiction to pain medication if dosages are not regulated properly.
Luckily, there are many alternatives to painkillers out there!
Chamomile teas are known to help soothe muscle spasms which can definitely help with alleviating cramps. Bananas help relax muscles in the body due to their potassium content and are definitely a great munching option to fight menstrual cramps. Simple changes in diet to reduce fat intake can help reduce estrogen levels in the body which reduces the thickness of the uterine lining. Drinking hot water, taking hot showers, keeping oneself warm and hydrated are some of the basic and best ways to fight off this menacing pain.
Although painkillers do bring about quick and effective effects on menstrual cramps, they are not always the best option. It is important that one considers the pros and cons that come with taking painkillers and also consider healthier alternatives to manage pain. Planned changes in lifestyle, your routine or your environment can also be of great help!
I do understand that there is a chance you might find painkillers to be your favourite remedy for menstrual cramps but I hope after this you would start to think about painkillers as one of your vast array of options and not your only solution.
Written by: Sanjana Gandhi
Graphics by: Dhaani
Menstrual Cramps and PMS treatment (MedicineNet)
Exercise and Menstrual Cramps (HemAware)
Dysmenorrhea (Global Library of Women’s Medicine)
Using foods against menstrual Pain (Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine)
Menstrual Cramps (Mayo Clinic)
Menstrual Pain (WebMD)