Karen Tyson became accustomed to being in pain two or three days out of each month when her regular menstrual cramps would ensue. Most of the time, she could find relief with a hot water bottle and some Motrin. But every third month or so, the pain became intolerable.
“I would do whatever I could to make the pain go away: take over-the-counter medication, lay down, walk around, but nothing helped,” said Tyson. “I would just hold my stomach and double over in pain at times, sometimes having to leave work.”
She visited her gynecologist, had a sonogram, and blood work, and everything came back normal: no cysts, no fibroids, nothing out of the ordinary.
“It was good and bad, because on one hand, I was so happy that nothing major was wrong, yet at the same time, I couldn’t stand the pain,” explains Tyson.
She was determined to find relief and started taking vitamins, cleaned up her diet, and began a regular exercise program, along with drinking plenty of water.
“Within a month, I started to notice a change in how I felt, and then I noticed my period was not terrible that month. The following month it was even better.”
Tyson can’t say exactly what caused her pain to subside, but believes “it was the vitamins that helped more than anything,” and says that when she doesn’t take them and doesn’t eat well, she can feel the difference. Now she has mild cramps and says they are nothing like they used to be, and she can tolerate them without any change in her daily schedule and without taking any medication.
Dr. Prudence Hall, a gynecologist and practitioner of integrated medicine, has successfully treated thousands of women with severe cramps. Dr. Hall covers the topic in her most recent book, “Radiant Again & Forever,” and offers her suggestions for relieving menstrual cramps. Dr. Hall says that painful menstrual cramps are a major cause of time lost from work or school for women in their teens and 20s, and there are more natural remedies that can help rather than just taking Motrin round the clock.
Here are Dr. Hall’s five alternative solutions:
Magnesium: Take a magnesium supplement at night. Women who experience the most severe menstrual cramps typically have low levels of magnesium.
Bath time: Take a warm bath with Epsom salts. These also contain magnesium.
Sex: Although it may sound counterintuitive, having sex — and orgasms — will definitely help relieve pain due to the hormones released into the body.
Oxytocin: Ask your doctor to prescribe oxytocin, a natural hormone (the same one that is released when women nurse). It has the effect of decreasing menstrual cramps and general body aches, while also producing an overall feeling of well-being. What’s not to like about that?
Omega 3: Omega 3 can also be very helpful, as it helps to relieve inflammation.
Of course, Dr. Hall cautions that extreme pain should never be ignored and advises that all women check with their physicians to eliminate the possibility of such issues as endometriosis, sexually transmitted diseases, or uterine fibroids.
Danielle Sullivan is a writer living in New York City. Follow her on Instagram @Deewrite.