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For many women, menstrual cramps are a way of life, and something they have had to get used to. Knowing what causes period pain is a very useful way to know how to treat it and which approaches are the most appropriate. Studies have shown promising results for women with primary dysmenorrhoea who have had physiotherapy. Let’s look at what causes period pain and how a physiotherapist may be able to help you with pain management.


What Causes Period Pain?

Period pain is divided into two categories: primary dysmenorrhoea and secondary dysmenorrhoea and can be felt in the lower abdominal area. Sometimes it extends into the upper thighs and lower back. Primary dysmenorrhoea is the most common type of period pain affecting women who do not have an underlying health condition. 

Some women may experience it often and intensely, while other women may have painless periods. In general, painful periods are most likely to occur on the days of heaviest bleeding.

Sometimes period pain is accompanied by other symptoms such as

  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Diarrhoea
  • Feeling faint
  • Nausea


Primary Dysmenorrhoea

manage what causes period pain gold coastIt is believed that women with primary dysmenorrhoea have higher concentrations of prostaglandins, and feel more pain when the muscles of the uterus contract in order to shed the lining of the uterus. Prostaglandins cause the contractions.

If you have primary dysmenorrhoea you may experience menstrual cramps in your lower abdomen on one or both sides. The menstrual cramps may start a day before your period begins and last for one to three days.


Secondary Dysmenorrhoea

Women who have secondary dysmenorrhoea experience period pain because they have an underlying condition such as pelvic inflammatory disorder, endometriosis or fibroids. In general, women who have secondary dysmenorrhoea are over the age of 30.

Signs and symptoms of secondary dysmenorrhoea may include

  • Irregular periods
  • Bleeding between periods
  • A change in your cycle or period pain
  • Pain between periods
  • Pain during sex


How To Manage Menstrual Cramps?

You may be able to manage menstrual cramps through

  • Gentle massage
  • Heat packs or hot water bottles applied to your abdomen
  • Gentle exercises for stress reduction
  • Meditative practices to help you relax like yoga and tai chi
  • Pain medication


How Can A Physiotherapist Help With Painful Periods?

Gentle exercises, stretching and toning can help to reduce your overall tension and stress levels, boost circulation and improve your quality of sleep. Speak to a physiotherapist about a lifestyle management programme that can help you holistically. Physiotherapy can be tailored to your personal needs, particularly if you have secondary dysmenorrhoea and you have an underlying health condition that needs to be worked around.  

If your period pain is so severe that it stops you from going to school or work, or interferes with your quality of life, you should be discussing your management options with your physiotherapist.


For a more in-depth discussion on what causes period pain and how you might manage painful periods, it’s best to speak directly to a healthcare professional. Please contact us for an appointment: (07) 5613 1531.

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