How Are Periods and Chronic Pain Related?
Let’s face it – for most women, periods are unpleasant. As it is, we deal with bleeding, cramping, mood swings, nausea and more symptoms that make that time of the month a less-than-ideal experience. And as if periods aren’t bad enough, some women who experience chronic pain conditions may have it worse.
Women who suffer from conditions like fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus and other rare conditions that affect the nervous system, may have a more painful period, and can also experience exacerbated pain related to their condition during their cycle.1-4 Keep reading on to learn about the science behind this link, and what women can do to alleviate the pain.
What’s the Link?
Although not studied extensively, some research demonstrates that the part of the nervous system (think – hormones) that is responsible for regulating your period is sensitive to other changes in the body, like those with chronic pain may experience. This can contribute to an increase in their condition’s symptoms, as well as exacerbated menstrual or pre-menstrual symptoms.2
For women suffering from joint pain related to their condition, dips in estrogen may contribute to increased pain just before or during their periods due to the hormone’s pain-protecting quality.3 This means more pain than just the usual monthly woes. For women with more rare conditions, like postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome, or POTS, periods can introduce a slew of symptoms each month – including gynecologic abnormalities that contribute to lightheadedness.4
Women suffering from chronic pain should talk with their doctor to discuss their symptoms, including those that may be exacerbated during their cycle. Together, you and your doctor can help to identify a comprehensive treatment plan for your health and lifestyle needs.
Talk with your doctor to see if any of these at-home pain-combatting techniques are right for you!5,6
- Trying out acupuncture
- This ancient method has proven to alleviate chronic pain over time.
- Using heat therapy
- Take a hot bath with Epsom salt to decompress and relax
- Practicing meditation
- By “tuning into” your pain and being present, you may actually help to relieve it!
- Getting regular exercise
If you find that your menstrual symptoms persist or are more painful than usual, it may be something more serious. Be sure to speak up to your doctor about your pain and how it affects you each month.
- Colangelo, Kim et al. Self-reported flaring varies during the menstrual cycle in systemic lupus erythematosus compared with rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia. Rheumatology. 2011 Apr; Volume 50, Issue 4. https://academic.oup.com/rheumatology/article/50/4/703/1777760. Accessed October 1, 2018.
- Fibromyalgia Pain During Your Period. Everyday Health. https://www.everydayhealth.com/fibromyalgia/pain-and-your-period.aspx. Accessed October 1, 2018.
- Joint Pain and Women. Everyday Health. https://www.everydayhealth.com/womens-health/joint-pain-and-women.aspx. Accessed October 1, 2018.
- Vincent, Katy; Tracey, Irene. Hormones and their Interaction with the Pain Experience. Reviews in Pain. 2008 Dec; 2(2): 20-24. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4589942/. Accessed October 1, 2018.
- Research Finds Acupuncture Effective for Chronic Pain. American Academy of Family Physicians. https://www.aafp.org/news/health-of-the-public/20180521acupuncture.html. October 1, 2018.
- 6 Cheap, Natural, and Quick Chronic Pain Remedies. Everyday Health. https://www.everydayhealth.com/news/cheap-natural-quick-chronic-pain-remedies/. October 1, 2018.