Reducing Menstrual Pain with Exercise

woman walking a dog

If you experience painful period cramps, you’re not alone. Most women will experience pain during their periods at some point during their reproductive years. Pain from menstruation can drastically affect your quality of life as you may have to call out from work, cancel personal plans and just be unable to go about your daily life.

Whether you’re having muscle cramping, nausea, dizziness or all of these during your period, exercising may be the last thing you want to think about doing. However, research has shown that regular exercise, including during your menstruation, can be an effective tool for pain management.

What is Menstrual Pain?

Dysmenorrhea is another term for menstrual pain. Primary dysmenorrhea refers to menstrual pain that occurs without an associated disease and that is normally experienced in the first few days of menstrual flow. This type of menstrual pain is caused by an increased number of chemicals called prostaglandins in the uterine lining resulting in cramping. Primary dysmenorrhea pain typically includes pain in the lower pelvis, back, and thighs, and can also cause headaches and feelings of nausea. This type of pain typically subsides within the first 3 days of the onset of flow.

Secondary dysmenorrhea is menstrual pain that is associated with an underlying gynecological condition such as endometriosis, fibroids or pelvic inflammatory disease. If your period pain is severe and does not respond to pain relief methods such as medications and exercise, you may need to consult with your doctor.

How Can Exercise Help With Menstrual Pain?

Research has shown that exercise can be an effective tool for reducing primary dysmenorrhea. 

Both low-intensity and high-intensity aerobic exercises based on your comfort, energy levels, mood, symptoms and preference can be helpful. Low-intensity exercises include walking, yoga, and biking and high-intensity exercises include running and Zumba.

When you exercise, your body releases beta-endorphins which provide pain relief by helping  to cycle out the prostaglandins that cause muscle contractions. It is important to do these exercises for 45-60 mins three times a week, every week, and not just when you are menstruating. In addition to pain relief, exercising for period pain can also aid with reducing the amount of pain medication needed.

If you have painful periods, try giving regular aerobic exercise a try. If you need help with an exercise program that you actually enjoy doing and that meets your goals, Ace Sports Clinic is here to help! 

 

References:
https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/9525266/
https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31538328/