Period Cramps-what you need to know
Menstrual cramping-most vulva owners will have experienced them at least once in their lifetime and maybe cramps frequent your life during your period. We want to help you know exactly what's happening during your period to cause cramping and empower you with knowledge to help manage cramping and improve your symptoms.
What is actually happening/causing cramping with your period? During your period/menstrual phase of your cycle your uterus is shedding the endometrium which is the blood you see and sometimes clots you have to manage during this time. In order to propel the endometrium out of the uterus the pelvic floor and core muscles through your pelvic and abdomen that surround and support the uterus will contract. Just as other muscles throughout the body will catch cramps if they're dehydrated, overworked, weak, inflexible, etc.-the pelvic floor and abdomen will do the same. THIS is the cramping you experience during your period.
Now, there are other hormonal factors and some conditions such as endometriosis that can cause a host of other chronic pain and symptoms however I'm only speaking towards the muscular component of the menstrual cycle.
How do you decrease cramping and improve your menstrual experience?
A muscle is extremely prone to cramping when it isn't adequately hydrated. Try to ease yourself into your goal water intake gradually to not overwhelm the body and the bladder. (General rule: to drink half of your body weight in ounces daily)
Stress and an overactive sympathetic nervous system will increase muscle tension and muscle guarding. This not only provides a perfect environment for cramping but it also increases the intensity of pain.
Incorporate diaphragmatic breathing into your life daily for ~3-5 minutes at a time. Desensitize your abdomen and pelvis by giving yourself very gentle pressure/massage to all areas of your belly and pelvis.
Exercise particularly barre and yoga will gently increase blood flow to the pelvis and core musculature which will cycle out inflammation and decrease pain with periods.
If your cramping is making you nauseated, causing you to vomit, making you want to call in from school or work, please see your doctor for further investigation. This is not normal and can be treated with pelvic floor physical therapy and/or other medical management from your doctor. Learn more about our physical therapist at The Studio here.