Period pain sucks. As soon as the first twinge shoots across your abdomen, you know it's just a downward spiral from there. At best, it will leave you a bit bloated, lethargic and feeling a little low, and at its worst, you'll end up mentally, physically and emotionally exhausted from the entire experience.
"The medical term for menstrual cramps is dysmenorrhea, which means painful menstruation," reveals Shabir Daya, MRPharmS, co-founder of Victoria Health. "More than half of all females suffer from it at some point in their lives."
According to our resident doctor, Jane Leonard, MD, the reason we get cramps is all down to the hormonal changes we experience pre- and mid-menstruation, but it's important to note that if your period pain is particularly bad, it could be as a result of an underlying condition.
"If PMS and period pain are becoming a significant problem—for example, it's affecting your quality of life, the ability to do your daily activities, or you're worried in any way—please see your GP." recommends Leonard.
If you're not in that category and have simply found yourself afflicted with the "standard" monthly distress, you'll be happy to hear that a couple of Nurofen and a hot water bottle aren't your only routes to banishing period cramps. Nope, we quizzed the UK's top health and wellness experts to uncover the most ingenious tips that will ease the pain at record speed.
Keep scrolling for four period pain cures you won't have tried yet.
Magnesium has long been famed as a wonder ingredient within sporting circles, thanks to its ability to relax muscles and its impressive anti-inflammatory properties. And that's also what makes it so good at relieving menstrual cramps too. Either sprinkle your bath water with a handful of Epsom salts, or if time doesn't allow, try spritzing a magnesium oil spray straight onto the lower abdomen.
According to Kirsty Raynor, yoga teacher and founder of Pop Up Practice, when period cramps strike, certain yoga moves can really help relieve the pain (although she wouldn't recommend doing a full session).
She starts with supported child's pose. "Whilst kneeling down, I place a cushion on my thighs in order to add support to my stomach before folding down into the child's pose," she explains. "Allow your spine to relax, stretch your arms out in front and release all tension in the shoulders and let your tummy fall onto the cushion giving you that support and relief needed."
Next, try a standing forward fold, whereby you bend your upper body over. "This can give you a real release in your lower back, legs and tummy, and this pose also gets your circulation going, which your body will thank you for," she says.
Finally, try a supine twist: "Lie on your back and let gravity take control of your hips, knee and shoulders to allow you to sink into the mat," Raynor explains. Bending your knees, twist your hips to allow the legs to fall to one side of your body, and then repeat on the other side. "Allow your body to open by breathing as you go into the twist, and if possible, try to stay on each side for a few minutes."
It can be all too easy to reach for the chocolate when you're feeling sorry for yourself during period pain, but it can pay off to pay particular attention to what you eat. "Women who suffer from cramping have been shown to produce greater levels of prostaglandins—the hormones secreted by the lining of the uterus, and this can be exacerbated by a diet that is rich in saturated fats from meat and dairy product," reveals Daya.
"Try not to overindulge too much, as eating foods high in sugar and carbohydrate causes havoc with your body's insulin levels, which cause slumps in energy and can make some abdominal symptoms such as bloating worse," adds Leonard. Instead, eat a meal with lots of green leafy vegetables, which have a high content of muscle-relaxing magnesium.
Even if you're not ready to give up on the Nurofen, there are plenty of supplements that can bolster its pain-relieving effect. Natalie Viklund, co-founder of Aevi Wellness, suggests taking evening primrose oil: "It's a great anti-inflammatory to help relieve pain from bloating, while lavender will help to reduce emotional tension and reduce contractions making for a less painful period."
But don't just stop when the pain subsides: "When my period is coming to an end, I always take oak, which is great at aiding recovery after the often exhausting physical and also mental labour of the menstruating period," she notes.
Up next, when the pain subsides, try one of these pillow sprays to make sure you get a good night's sleep during your period.
This post was originally published at an earlier date and has since been updated.