How I Deal with Period Pain | Tips & Tricks to Relieve Stomach Cramps

Periods can be absolutely savage, can't they?

I'm guessing you clicked on this post because you also experience period pain and are looking for some kind of relief. I suffer with heavy periods every month and get terrible cramps in my stomach, my lower back and sometimes even down my legs when it's particularly bad. It's not fun at all and sometimes is bad enough to stop me from leaving the house.

This means that, over the years, I've researched and experimented with dozens of ways to deal with the often debilitating pain I experience. Here are five tried and tested methods I now use when that time of the month arrives - hopefully a few of them will be helpful for you if you also suffer badly.

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1. Taking strong painkillers
I'm not one for popping pills for every little health niggle because I prefer to be as natural as possible - I don't want my body to start relying on medication every time I have a headache, for example. I used to try and put up with my period pain for as long as possible, until it became unbearable, before finally 'giving in' and swallowing some tablets. Then they would take longer to work, if they worked at all. 

Now I take ibuprofen as soon as I feel the cramp coming on - I know it's not going to get any better by itself and I'm not prepared to suffer pointlessly all day anymore. I usually go for Anadin (specifically Anadin Ultra) because it's the most effective I've found and starts working within about 15 minutes - time is of the essence when you're having cramps like mine.

2. Applying heat
I always find that putting something hot on my stomach helps to ease the pain a little. Heat pads or a hot water bottle usually work quite well, but submerging myself in a hot bath is the most effective because the water encompasses my whole body, including my back. I'm not really sure exactly why heat helps, but I think it's because it relaxes your muscles. 

3. Proper nutrition
When you're on your period it's tempting just to consume cheeseburgers and Pringles exclusively (I often crave salty or high fat foods during mine). But you're losing a lot of blood and it's important to eat properly to keep your energy up and stay as healthy as possible. Eating the right foods can actually help to relieve your cramps and bloating. Here are a few examples of foods to eat to help with these problems:

First of all, up your water intake to keep yourself hydrated and to relieve bloating. If you drink fizzy drinks regularly, try to cut them out during this time of the month.

Eat plenty of iron-rich foods such as kale, spinach and red meat - you're losing iron in the blood that's leaving your body and it's important to replace it. Vitamin C helps the body to absorb more iron from plant based sources, so make sure you're also eating plenty of fruit.

You'll probably be craving sugar so the natural sugars in fruits are a good alternative to sweets and chocolate, and also offer extra vitamins. Oranges contain calcium and vitamin D, which help to ward off PMS symptoms and relieve cramps. I also eat bananas as they're rich in magnesium, potassium and vitamin B6 which help to regulate mood.

Omega 3 fatty acids are also known to relax muscles and relieve cramps - these can be found in oily fish such as salmon as well as walnuts, avocados and flaxseeds. 

If you're really craving chocolate, have some dark chocolate (at least 60% cocoa solids) instead of milk chocolate. Dark chocolate contains magnesium which regulates mood and helps to produce the happy hormone, serotonin. 

4. Stretching
Sometimes when you're suffering with bad cramps all you want to do is lie on the sofa with a big bar of chocolate and binge watch your favourite show on Netflix. But it can be beneficial to make yourself get up and do some gentle yoga stretches to relieve the pain. I'm not a yogi so don't know the names of any of the poses to recommend to you, but if you search something like 'Yoga for period cramps' on YouTube you'll find loads of results. Here's a good one I found by Yoga with Adrienne

5. Using kinesiology tape
Unless you're a fitness fanatic, you may not even have heard of kinesiology tape. It's used to support muscles and prevent injuries during sports etc. One day my cramps were so bad that even the painkillers weren't working, so I googled alternative remedies for period pain and found this little gem: 

"Research in the Journal of Physical Therapy Science found that taping near your pelvic region before and during menstruation can help significantly relieve menstrual pain. The tape helps stimulate the sensory receptors in the skin, helping muscles relax to quiet your cramps". 

Luckily we already had some kinesiology tape at home because my husband wears it when working out and playing football. So I tried it and was pleasantly surprised to find that it really does work. Just tape it across your stomach wherever the pain is (there are some YouTube videos on how to do this) and within a few minutes your muscles will start to relax and the pain will ease. 

Do you suffer from bad period pains? What are some things you do to relieve them? Please share your tips in the comments.  

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