Period pain is common and a normal part of your menstrual cycle. Most women get it at some point in their lives.
It’s usually felt as painful muscle cramps in the tummy, which can spread to the back and thighs. The pain sometimes comes in intense spasms, while at other times it may be dull but more constant. It may also vary with each period. Some periods may cause little or no discomfort, while others may be more painful.
Sometimes you may get pelvic pain even when you do not have your period.
What causes period pain?
Period pain happens when the muscular wall of the womb tightens (contracts). Mild contractions continually occur in your womb, but they’re usually so mild that most women cannot feel them.
During your period, the wall of the womb starts to contract more vigorously to help the womb lining shed as part of your period.
When the wall of the womb contracts, it compresses the blood vessels lining your womb. This temporarily cuts off the blood supply – and oxygen supply – to your womb. Without oxygen, the tissues in your womb release chemicals that trigger pain.
While your body is releasing these pain-triggering chemicals, it’s also producing other chemicals called prostaglandins. These encourage the womb muscles to contract more, further increasing the level of pain.
It’s not known why some women have more period pain than others. It may be that some women have a build-up of prostaglandins, which means they experience stronger contractions.
Period pain caused by a medical condition
Less commonly, period pain can be caused by an underlying medical condition.
Period pain linked to an underlying medical condition tends to affect older women. Women aged 30 to 45 are most commonly affected.
Medical conditions that can cause period pain include:
- endometriosis – where cells that normally line the womb grow in other places, such as in the fallopian tubes and ovaries; these cells can cause intense pain when they shed
- fibroids – non-cancerous tumours that can grow in or around the womb and can make your periods heavy and painful
- pelvic inflammatory disease – where your womb, fallopian tubes and ovaries become infected with bacteria, causing them to become severely inflamed
- adenomyosis – where the tissue that normally lines the womb starts to grow within the muscular womb wall, making your periods particularly painful
- Period pain caused by contraceptive devices
An intrauterine device (IUD) is a type of contraception made from copper and plastic that fits inside the womb. It can also sometimes cause period pain, particularly during the first few months after it’s inserted.
You may notice a change in your normal pattern of pain if your period pain is linked to a medical condition or a contraceptive IUD. For example, the pain may be more severe or it may last much longer than normal.
You may also have:
- irregular periods
- bleeding in between periods
- a thick or foul-smelling vaginal discharge
- pain during sex
- See your GP if you have any of these symptoms as well as period pain.
How long will my period pain last?
Period pain usually starts when your bleeding begins, although some women have pain several days before the start of their period.
The pain usually lasts 48 to 72 hours, although it can last longer. It’s usually at its worst when your bleeding is heaviest.
Period pain that does not have an underlying cause tends to improve as a woman gets older. Many women also notice an improvement after they’ve had children.
How can I treat period pain?
In most cases period pain is mild enough to treat at home.
You can take ibuprofen and aspirin to help manage your pain. However, do not take ibuprofen or aspirin if you have asthma or stomach, kidney or liver problems. Aspirin should not be taken by anyone under 16 years of age.
You could also try paracetamol, but studies have shown that it does not reduce pain as well as ibuprofen or aspirin.
If ordinary painkillers do not help, we can prescribe Naproxen 250mg tablets.
Naproxen (Naprosyn) is a painkiller used to reduce inflammatory signs and symptoms (i.e., pain, heat, swelling and redness) that occurs in the muscles, the joints and/or the tendons in a variety of musculoskeletal disorders, such as strains, sprains, osteoarthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, gout, rheumatoid arthritis (both adult and juvenile conditions), and to lessen the pain that can occur during menstruation.
What is Naproxen?
Naproxen is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) that can also reduce fever (i.e., it has antipyretic properties). Naprosyn contains Naproxen, they are essentially the same medicine. In a similar way to other NSAIDs, Naproxen relieves signs and symptoms of inflammation by inhibiting enzymes involved in making prostaglandins. Prostaglandins account for the pain and inflammation we experience with injuries and certain disorders and diseases.
How to use Naproxen
Naproxen is provided as a tablet, which frequently is prepared in a way that protects the stomach. Thus, the tablet may have a gastro-resistant or enteric coat or have a modified-release mechanism to stop it disintegrating in the stomach and allowing it to be broken down in the intestines. If it does not have this stomach-protecting property then you may be given an additional tablet that will do this.
The dose and frequency of Naproxen will depend on what disorder you have and your age. If you are older than 64 years, or have liver and/or kidney problems, or the medicine is for a child, the dose will be less than the usual adult dose. Take this medicine with water, and as you eat your dinner or after it. You should take Naproxen only for as long as you need to, and so your doctor will want you to have regular check-ups. Only take the dose that you are told to – if you take more, then go for medical assistance straight away; if you missed a dose – then skip it, and carry on as scheduled.
Who can use Naproxen?
Naproxen is for adults in general, and for children older than 5 years with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis only.
Naproxen is not for people who are allergic to anything in this medicinal product or any other medicines taken for pain relief, e.g., aspirin and NSAIDs. You should not use Naproxen if you have had serious or severe problems with your stomach or intestines (e.g., ulcers or bleeds), liver, kidneys, or heart, or are within 3 months of giving birth. Before accepting this medicine, talk to your doctor if you are or are considering pregnancy. Naproxen may not be appropriate for you if you have/have had heart problems, stroke, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, or you smoke. Also mention to the prescriber if you have/have had allergies (swelling eyes, mouth, or face), an autoimmune disease (e.g., systemic lupus erythematosus, Crohn’s disease), inflammation of the bowel, weakness, or problems with your nose, kidneys, liver, blood clotting, blood vessels, or high blood cholesterol.
Your current, future and past medicines, whether on prescription or not, are important to the doctor, particularly all painkillers and anti-inflammatory drugs (e.g., NSAIDs and steroids), and those treating conditions such as arthritis or gout, all types of infection (including HIV and AIDS), heart problems, high blood pressure, diabetes, epilepsy, mental health issues, skin disorders, cancer, and those given post-organ transplant or for pregnancy termination.
Naproxen Side Effects
Naproxen is known to increase the risk of heart attacks and strokes; report these and any of their signs and symptoms (e.g., chest pain that may travel down the left arm, one-sided numbness and weakness, and confusion) immediately. People taking Naproxen have reported serious problems with their health; Naproxen may not therefore suit you so stop taking it and seek medical help fast if you experience an allergic reaction (with changes and swelling to your face, throat, breathing and skin); gastrointestinal concerns (e.g., nausea/vomiting, blood in vomit, anal bleeding or black stools, diarrhoea, or stomach or intestinal pains/ulcers), skin rashes, yellowing, and blisters, fever, or a stiff neck. Effects that you may also have with Naproxen include other digestive disturbances, blood abnormalities, bruising, changes in heart rate, swelling of hands/feet/legs, depression, difficulty with sleeping/memory/concentration, headache, sight/hearing problems, dizziness, urine/kidney problems, muscle pain/weakness, and women may have problems getting pregnant. If you are worried by any changes in your health then take advice from your doctor.
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Please complete the risk assessment to commence the process of getting Naproxen prescribed.