Most women have painful menstrual cramps
(dysmenorrhea) from time to time. Menstrual cramps are one of the most common
reasons for women to seek medical attention. The pain from menstrual cramps can
range from mild to severe and can involve the lower belly, back, or thighs.
You may also have headaches, nausea, dizziness or fainting, or diarrhea or
constipation with your cramps.
During the menstrual cycle, the
lining of the
uterus produces a hormone called
prostaglandin. This hormone causes the uterus to
contract, often painfully. Women with severe cramps may produce
higher-than-normal amounts of prostaglandin, or they may be more sensitive to
Cramping is common during the teen years, when a young woman
first starts having periods. Primary
dysmenorrhea is a term used to describe painful
menstrual cramping with no recognized physical cause. It is seen most commonly
in women between the ages of 20 and 24. It usually goes away after 1 to 2
years, when hormonal balance occurs.
Secondary dysmenorrhea is a
term used to describe painful menstrual cramping caused by a physical problem
other than menstruation. Physical problems that can cause this type of cramping
Menstrual-type cramps may occur after a medical procedure,
such as cautery, cryotherapy, conization, radiation, endometrial biopsy, or IUD
Other menstrual symptoms, such as weight gain, headache,
and tension, that occur before your period begins, can be caused by
premenstrual syndrome (PMS). For more information, see
Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS).
your symptoms to decide if and when you should see a doctor.
Health Tools help you make wise health decisions or take action to improve your health.
You have answered all the questions. Based on your answers, you may be
able to take care of this problem at home.
Pain in adults and older children
Based on your answers, you may need care right away. The problem is likely to get worse without medical care.
Based on your answers, the problem may not improve without medical
Based on your answers, you may need care soon. The
problem probably will not get better without medical care.
Many things can affect how your body responds to a symptom and what kind
of care you may need. These include:
Try the following home treatment to
help manage your menstrual cramps:
Call your doctor if any of the following occur during home
You may be able to prevent menstrual
To prepare for your appointment, see the topic Making the Most of Your Appointment.
You can help your
doctor diagnose and treat your condition by being prepared to answer the
June 13, 2013
William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine
& H. Michael O'Connor, MD - Emergency Medicine
How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.
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