Menstrual pain: causes and effective home remedies for menstrual cramps

Menstrual pain: causes and effective home remedies for menstrual cramps

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Help with pain during the period

Period pain (dysmenorrhea) is one of the most common complaints during menstruation and almost every woman has experienced this before. They can occur in very different intensities, often it is cramp-like pain in the lower abdomen and back, which is accompanied by other symptoms such as nausea or poor circulation. Although the menstrual cramps are often very distressing for the women concerned, in most cases they are not caused by a disease, but by certain hormones (prostaglandins) that control the menstrual cycle.

In rare cases there is a pathological cause such as the widespread female disease endometriosis or uterine inflammation. Accordingly, persistent or severe pain during the period should always be cleared up by a doctor. Naturopathy offers many valuable home remedies and procedures that can contribute to relief.


In most cases, symptoms during menstruation are manifested by cramping, pulling or dull pain in the lower abdomen. In some cases, these can become so strong that those affected literally “bend over in pain” and are therefore severely restricted in their everyday lives.

The cramps arise as a result of increased contractions of the uterine muscles, by means of which the uterine lining (endometrium), which was built up previously and is no longer required in the event of a lack of fertilization, is rejected. The contraction of the muscles can occur irregularly and sometimes last for several minutes, so the complaints can also show up in very different intensities, characteristics and duration.

In addition to the abdominal cramps, a number of other symptoms can occur. For example, headaches or migraines, sensitive breasts, leg pain, back pain, diarrhea, chronic fatigue as well as nausea and vomiting are possible.

Women who are affected often report a general feeling of illness, weakness, dizziness or sudden flushing (“flush”). Sometimes there are sleep disorders, increased nervousness and irritability, in more severe cases depression can even develop as a result of menstrual problems.

If the symptoms are not based on a disease (primary dysmenorrhea), they usually occur when ovulation has occurred in a menstrual cycle and this has not been suppressed (e.g. by the contraceptive pill). In most cases, the pain appears shortly before the onset of bleeding and is most pronounced on the first two days of the menstrual period.

Complaints from premenstrual syndrome - PMS

If, on the other hand, they occur up to 14 days before the period, the term “premenstrual syndrome” (short: PMS) is used. In the course of this complex complaint pattern, other physical and / or psychological-emotional complaints may appear in addition to the symptoms mentioned. Examples include skin changes, hot flashes, water in the legs, thick feet, constipation, poor circulation, mood swings, aggressiveness, listlessness or anxiety.

Menstrual pain caused by the body's own messenger substances

Pain during the period can be extremely uncomfortable, but from a medical perspective, there is no need to worry in most cases. A distinction is generally made between two forms, which can be attributed to very different causes. The so-called primary menstrual pain occurs in most women in the course of the very first period (menarche) and has no disease value.

Instead, they are caused by special hormones ("prostaglandins"), which are formed in increased amounts in the endometrium during the menstrual period. The prostaglandins cause a contraction of the uterine muscles, whereby the excess mucous membrane can be rejected. If the muscles contract due to the increased production of hormones over a longer period of time, the blood flow in the tissue is reduced. As a result, acidic metabolic products can no longer be removed unhindered from the uterus, which leads to cramp-like abdominal pain.

The primary menstrual pain usually occurs in cycles in which ovulation has occurred, since the endometrium in this case becomes increasingly thicker in order to be able to offer a fertilized egg a “nourishing nest”. If, on the other hand, ovulation is suppressed by the contraceptive pill, for example, the mucous membrane is not built up as strongly, which leads to a correspondingly weaker menstruation and accordingly also causes far fewer complaints.

In rare cases, organic causes are responsible for primary menstrual pain, especially if it occurs very early or after puberty. For example, malformations of the uterus (uterine abnormalities) are possible, such as a missing (uterus didelphys) or only partial (uterus bicornis) fusion of the two "Müller ducts". It is the embryonic genital system from which the fallopian tubes, uterus and vagina develop in women.

Delayed development of the uterus or genitals and disturbed hormone balance can also lead to severe pain. The same applies to an anomaly in which the uterus is bent backwards (retroflexion), for example.

The psyche can play an important role in primary menstrual cramps, for example, during puberty it is difficult for young women to identify with "becoming a woman" and to find their way into the new role. Accordingly, the menstrual period can be perceived as very disturbing and uncomfortable, which manifests itself in the form of pain and possible accompanying symptoms such as chronic fatigue, irritability, severe inner restlessness or mood swings.

Stress, tension or fears can aggravate the symptoms. Young women who started their first period very early (i.e. around the age of 12) or whose cycle is generally very long are at increased risk of problems during the rule. Other favorable factors are a comparatively low body weight and an unhealthy lifestyle (alcohol, unhealthy diet, smoking).

Causes of secondary menstrual pain

The secondary (“acquired”) menstrual pain, on the other hand, only occurs in the course of life and in most cases can be attributed to an organic or psychological cause. Accordingly, women with strong, frequent or recurring symptoms should always speak to their gynecologist in order to clarify the reasons and, if necessary, to be able to initiate further treatment steps.

For example, inflammation of the uterus or a fibroid is possible, which are benign growths that occur in the muscle layer of the uterus (myometrium) and represent the most common benign tumors of the female genital tract.

Inflammatory diseases of the genital organs, such as inflammation of the fallopian tubes and ovaries (adnexitis), which in most cases are caused by bacteria and mainly affect women between 20 and 35 years, are considered. Characteristic here are suddenly sudden severe pelvic pain, as well as fever, bleeding, purulent vaginal discharge, pain during sex as well as nausea and vomiting.

If such an inflammation is left untreated, the risk of chronic suffering and the associated back and menstrual complaints as well as an irregular cycle increase over time. In serious cases, complications such as an intestinal breakthrough and long-term consequences such as permanent infertility or chronic pain are possible.


It is possible that women experience excruciating menstrual pain due to endometriosis. It is a benign disease that occurs relatively often, but in many cases remains undetected for a long time. It is characterized by a “wildly growing” uterine lining (endometrium) that settles in neighboring organs beyond the uterine cavity (cavum uteri). In principle, every area can be affected, but endometrial foci often form in the lower abdominal or pelvic area, on the ovaries and fallopian tubes, in the peritoneum and in the wall of the uterus (adenomyosis).

The foci develop parallel to the endometrium during the monthly cycle, causing cramp-like pain, often accompanied by severe abdominal and back pain. If the endometriosis occurs in the bladder or in the intestine, blood in the urine, blood in the stool, or problems with urination are less likely.

Since the relocated or "scattered" uterine lining also bleeds during menstruation, but the blood cannot drain off accordingly, cysts often form in endometriosis. In addition, some women experience pain during sexual intercourse as well as non-specific complaints such as headache, dizziness and stomach problems. It is typical that the symptoms become more severe as the cycle progresses and then decrease with the decrease in menstruation, with most women affected feeling the greatest problems one to three days before the onset of the period.

Depending on where the endometrium is located, the disease can be of very different degrees. The deposits can only be the size of a pinhead; in other cases, larger cysts develop, which are blood-filled and usually appear on the ovaries in this form.

Exactly what exactly caused the disease has not been clarified in spite of intensive research, but it is suspected, among other things, that the so-called "retrograde" (reverse) menstruation could possibly be the trigger. In this case, part of the bleeding does not run out through the cervix into the vagina, but instead is “sucked” back by the uterus in the direction of the fallopian tube, so that scattered tissue can get into the abdomen and spread there.

Other theories assume, for example, changes in the immune system or a disturbed interplay of hormones. Some experts also consider a genetic predisposition to be possible, as a family accumulation can be observed in some cases.

In addition to the symptoms mentioned, damage to the organs affected can lead to further massive effects from endometriosis, which can range from adhesions and scars to infertility. It is even assumed here that every second case is due to untreated endometriosis, which is why a clarification in the absence of pregnancy is highly recommended.

Hormonal spiral pain

If the symptoms only appear later in life or after years of painless menstrual bleeding, it can be a side effect of the hormone spiral, which is inserted into the uterus and releases the hormone progestin there. As with all hormonal contraceptives, other undesirable effects can also occur here. Headaches, weight changes, depressed moods or skin problems are possible.

Psychological causes

Psychological factors can lead to women not feeling pain during their period until later in life (for the first time). Here, among other things, an increased burden or overload in the private and / or professional area comes into question, because if the mental balance here is disturbed by stress and tension, this can already be the pain trigger. In addition to this, an unfulfilled desire to have children, problems with one's own sexuality or conflicts in partnership can also be the cause.

Treatment with medication

If the pulling pain occurs again and again during the period, medication can be used after medical consultation to achieve an improvement. Painkillers from the group of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen, diclofenac or acetylsalicylic acid (ASA, aspirin etc.) are particularly suitable. Among other things, by preventing prostaglandin formation, these help the uterus to contract less and thus cause significantly less discomfort.

Danger: Some of the remedies are available for sale over the counter in the pharmacy, but due to the many possible side effects, they should not be taken without medical consultation and, above all, never permanently.

In addition to NSAIDs, spasmolytics (anti-spasmodic agents) such as butylscopolamine can also be used for severe cramps, since these lower the state of tension in the muscles and thus also have a relaxing effect. Since primary menstrual disorders usually occur in connection with ovulation (ovulation), oral contraceptives ("the pill") can be prescribed for women who do not currently want to have children. This suppresses ovulation and counteracts ovulation pain. In general, therefore, a hormone spiral can help, but many experts believe that this should not be used in very young women.

If it is a secondary dysmenorrhea, which was triggered by a certain disease, this decides on the respective treatment measures. For example, if there is endometriosis, there is the option of drug treatment. On the other hand, an operation can be carried out, in which - depending on the location and size - the endometrial foci are either cut out directly via the vagina (excision) or removed by laser as part of an abdominal mirroring (laparoscopy). In some cases, open surgery via an abdominal incision may be necessary, for example if the endometrium is not accessible in any other way or is very pronounced overall.

Home remedies for regular complaints

If organic diseases have been excluded gynecologically as a cause, various home remedies for abdominal pain and cramps are available to relieve the pain. Thermal therapy applications such as baths, grain pillows, mud packs (e.g. fango, peat) or saunas have proven themselves, for example. These can relieve the cramps in the uterine muscles and thus relieve the pain.

A healing tea, which is prepared, for example, from the leaves of mugwort, can offer soothing and antispasmodic warmth "from the inside". Other suitable plants for a medicinal tea are lady's mantle, gooseberry, yarrow, chamomile and lemon balm.

A proven remedy from the field of herbal medicine (phytopharmaceuticals) is the "monk's pepper" (Vitex agnus castus). The ingredients of the medicinal plant can help to keep the hormone balance stable, relieve feelings of tension and pain in the breast and promote a regular cycle .

For women whose periods are very strong and long lasting, shepherd's purse herb is a good choice. The cruciferous plant has a contracting effect on the veins of the uterine muscles and can thereby reduce bleeding and pain.

Shepherd's purse tea - dosage and preparation:
  1. Put a heaped teaspoon of the herb (with leaves, roots and flowers) in a cup
  2. Scald the herb with 200 ml of boiling water
  3. Let the infusion covered for 10 to 15 minutes
  4. Strain the herb through a tea strainer
  5. Depending on the severity of the symptoms, drink two to three cups of the tea throughout the day

Tip: To counteract the symptoms, drink a cup of shepherd's purse tea up to four times a day a few days before the bleeding starts.

In general, it is helpful for abdominal pain to move in order to stimulate the pelvic circulation and thereby relieve cramps. Accordingly, women should remain physically active during the period and take exercise to combat menstrual cramps.

We particularly recommend walks and gentle sports such as swimming, cycling or Nordic walking. Activities that increase the cramp-like feeling in the uterus should be avoided. These include in particular power-intensive sports such as gymnastics, martial arts, aerobics or bodybuilding.

Since the pain is often exacerbated by stress such as stress, fears or conflicts, relaxation techniques and exercises to reduce stress can be very beneficial and relieving. Various techniques such as yoga, autogenic training, progressive muscle relaxation or Tai Chi come into consideration here. Every affected person should therefore find out for themselves what they personally enjoy and do well.

Proper nutrition for menstrual pain

Nutrition plays an important role in our well-being, so special care should be taken to ensure that people eat and drink, especially when they have regular complaints. In many cases, the omission of drinks containing caffeine, such as coffee or black tea, alleviates the symptoms significantly. For other women, avoiding dairy products helps to combat abdominal pain and develop a better body feeling.

Therefore, it is advisable to listen carefully to problems during the period and to try out which foods do or harm the body in order to support it as well as possible in its self-healing. In general, a healthy and balanced diet with lots of magnesium (nuts, legumes, whole grain rice etc.) is recommended, which relaxes the muscles and soothes the nerves.

Increasing iron intake a few days before and during the period can be very helpful, since iron is crucial for blood formation and can thus counteract anemia, tiredness and weakness in menstrual pain. Women affected should therefore definitely prevent iron deficiency, for example by regularly eating veal or beef, seafood, lentils, spinach, white beans, chanterelles and dried apricots. If necessary, proven home remedies for iron deficiency such as nettle tea or herbal blood juice can be taken from the health food store.

According to a study, the healing "miracle bulb" ginger helps with menstrual pain. Scientist from the University of Asan in South Korea and the entrepreneur Dr. As part of a meta-analysis of four controlled studies, James Daily examined how effectively ginger powder counteracts menstrual cramps. The evaluation of the data from a total of 494 women over the age of 18 showed evidence of significant pain relief from ginger powder and comparable effectiveness to conventional analgesics (e.g. ibuprofen or acetylsalicylic acid).

Naturopathy for menstrual pain

Another very popular alternative treatment for menstrual pain is aromatherapy. It follows the principles of naturopathy by activating the patient's self-healing powers. Chamomile, fennel or juniper are particularly recommended, the essential oils of which can be used effectively for a beneficial massage of the lower abdomen, for example. For this, a few drops are mixed with a neutral oil. Then massage gently and without pressure clockwise around the navel for about five minutes.

In many cases, naturopathy can help relieve menstrual pain with homeopathy. A whole range of different products come into consideration here, which is why a discussion about the means of choice, duration of use and potency should be held with the naturopath or naturopathic doctor before self-treatment. Lachesis can be used, for example, especially if headache and migraine occur before the period as well as dizziness and nosebleeds in parallel.

This remedy can also be indicated in the potencies D6 or D12 if there is a low back pain and uterine cramps, which subside with the onset of bleeding. If women suffer from painful breasts, a pull in the uterus and headaches before or during the period, Pulsatilla can be the right remedy. Other proven homeopathics for menstrual cramps include Nux vomica, Lycopodium, Calcium carbonicum and Magnesium phosphoricum.

Schüssler salts can also improve painful cramps during menstrual bleeding. Here, among other things, the salts No. 1 (Calcium Fluoratum), No. 13 (Kalium arsenicosum) and No. 17 (Manganum sulfuricum) come into consideration, although in this case the right agent and dosage should be discussed with an expert . Generally, the salts are taken 3 to 6 times a day in the form of one to three tablets, if necessary.

Hot role in pain during the menstrual period

The “hot role” is a very effective procedure in the field of heat or hydrotherapy, since it combines the targeted use of heat with a simultaneous massage effect. For the application, the therapist uses a terry towel, which he rolls up in a funnel shape and then two-thirds of which is filled with very hot or boiling water. It should be noted, however, that the roll is not completely soaked from the outside and, in addition, no water can flow out from the bottom, otherwise burns can quickly occur.

Then the hot roll is slowly but firmly rolled up and down on the affected parts of the body, as a result of which the moist heat from the towels is evenly applied and distributed. At the beginning, the movements should be rather dabbing, but then change into a swipe and finally a kind of circular massage.

At the end of the treatment, the towel is rolled out completely on the painful area and only removed when it has cooled down. Since the heat has a strong blood circulation boost in this application, cramps can be released and the muscles relaxed. Accordingly, the hot role as a home remedy for cramps and other complaints such as neck tension, bowel problems (hard bowel movements, constipation) or nervous-psychological tension can be a beneficial treatment method. (No)

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.

Dipl. Social Science Nina Reese, Barbara Schindewolf-Lensch


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Video: Herbal Remedies for Menstrual Cramps (January 2023).