Menstruation is a natural process that affects a lot of people, and it is widely accepted and even expected to be painful. However, while it is true that some pain during your period might be normal, it is important to understand where the threshold lies. Too much pain during your period can signify that other issues at play need to be explored and treated, like endometriosis or fibroids. Keep reading for more information.
The Causes of Period Pain
Two things can cause period pain during ‘normal’ periods: womb or uterine cramps and indirect pains caused by other menstrual changes. Womb or uterine cramps are caused by muscle contractions. The spasms do serve a purpose; they help to dislodge the old uterine lining and the endometrial cells. The cramps themselves can last anywhere from a few seconds to several minutes. Most people, they tend to come and go in waves throughout the duration of the period. They can also vary in intensity too.
The indirect or associated pains can be spread out throughout the body. For example, some people experience pain in their lower back, stomachs, vulva, thighs or breasts. These pains are more consistent and often described as an ache. The pains themselves can be caused by hormonal changes, inflammation, water retention or digestive disruptions. But, again, as with cramps, the pain itself can vary in severity and longevity.
There are a couple of things that can cause you additional pain during your period. Endometriosis is a condition caused by the abnormal growth of the endometrial tissues. These tissues usually grow inside of the womb, but when you have endometriosis, they may grow outside of the womb, they are usually found in other areas of the reproductive system, but in rare cases, they can be found somewhere else entirely. The cells continue to go through the same cycle, meaning they bleed or are shed monthly, but there is nowhere for the cells to go. The pain can be intense, and it isn’t always limited to your period. Some people with endometriosis report pain during sex or when going to the toilet too.
Fibroids are abnormal growths which can develop in or around the uterus or womb. They are fairly common, but they often go undiagnosed because their symptoms closely align with that of a period anyway. The size of the growth often dictates the amount of pain that you will experience. During your period, the fibroids can become more inflamed and cause additional pain.
Knowing the Difference
Obviously, it is important to point out that pain is entirely subjective; it is hard to generalise because everybody has different pain thresholds. It is really down to the individual to decide and describe the pain that they are experiencing. For the most part, normal period pain is often seen as a five on the pain scale, although severe cramps can hit up to an eight. However, it is worth pointing out that the painful cramps shouldn’t really last more than ten minutes or occur for more than three days in a row. Both cramps and associated period pain also respond well to pain killers, hot water bottles and other lifestyle changes.
If the pains last longer than three consecutive days or if they occur at other points of your cycle, then you might be dealing with something else. The pain might also be getting progressively worse, or you might experience the pain during sex or when using the toilet. If you have endometriosis, then you might also experience severe bloating or back and pelvic pain. If you have fibroids, then you might be able to feel the lump inside your abdomen. The periods themselves also tend to be heavier. The pains also might not respond as well to traditional pain-relieving methods.
When to Visit a Doctor
As mentioned above, it is hard to judge whether or not the pain that you are feeling during your period is normal or necessitates a doctor’s appointment. If the pain is debilitating and hinders your daily life, making it difficult to get on with your day, then you should see a doctor. If your period pain isn’t responding to painkillers or lifestyle changes, then you should make an appointment. Unfortunately, the diagnostic process isn’t always straightforward, but it is the first step to dealing with your pain properly.
The Bottom Line
Unfortunately, period pain is normal, and there isn’t really anything that you can do to alleviate the pain completely, but you can manage it. However, suppose you experience intense period pain, abnormally heavy periods, or other debilitating symptoms during your period. In that case, you might want to make an appointment with your doctor to see whether it warrants further exploration. Diagnosis is the first step to dealing with your condition, and your doctor should be able to give you some advice on the treatment options that may be available to you.