We're pretty period-positive around here. After all, it's a monthly reminder of your body's ability to grow and birth a human, which — whether you choose to use it or not — is an undeniable superpower. But there's no getting around that fact that periods can come with uncomfortable side-effects, including pain. In fact, pain is the most common period problem, affecting more than half of menstruating women.
Period pain, aka dysmenorrhea, is typically caused by uterine contractions, the muscular spasms that help it shed and refresh its inner lining. You might experience cramping or feel heaviness or tugging in your pelvic area. If you're worried about menstrual pain or if pain is getting in the way of your day-to-day life, don't wait to talk to your doctor or GYN about your symptoms. They can help determine if there's anything to worry about.
To get instant relief for mild to moderate menstrual pain, it helps to mind your posture and move your body. “Try to avoid hunching over in pain, as this can contribute to muscle imbalance and pain,” says Origin PT Dr. Ashley Rawlins. She recommends gentle exercise that you can do comfortably (read: without pain) and a heat pack to increase blood flow and release muscle tension.
If you like yoga, there are some easy poses that may reduce your period pain, on-the-spot. “Stretches that help calm the central nervous system and promote myofascial release can be helpful for period pain,” says Dr. Rawlins. She recommends starting with the 3 poses below. "These poses help unwind restriction in the anterior fascial planes, and decrease stiffness in the low back and pelvis.”
Cat / Cow
Start on your hands and knees, with your knees directly below your hips and your wrists, shoulders, and elbows all in a line, perpendicular to the floor. Let your head rest comfortably in a neutral position in line with your back. Breathe in and, as you exhale, gently drop your head toward the floor while rounding your back toward the ceiling. As you inhale, lift your head, chest, and hip bones up toward the ceiling while letting your belly drop to the floor. Repeat 10 to 15 times.
Child's Pose with Wide Knees
Start sitting back on your heels, then spread your knees about hip-distance apart. Your big toes should be touching each other. As you exhale, tuck your chin gently and walk your hands forward until your forehead is resting on the floor. You can leave your arms extended above your head with palms together or place them at your sides, with your palms up. Relax in this position for anywhere from one to several minutes.
Sphinx or Cobra
Sphinx: Start lying on your stomach with your legs together and the tops of your feet on the floor. Move your arms under your torso with your elbows beneath your shoulders and your forearms on the floor, positioned parallel to each other. As you inhale, lift your head and chest up into a gentle backbend. Actively engage your lower abdominal muscles to help support your upper body. Maintain this backbend for 5 to 10 breaths, then exhale and lower your head and upper body to the floor. Take a moment to fully relax before repeating a few times.
Cobra: Start lying on your stomach with your legs together and the tops of your feet on the floor. Keeping your elbows close to your body, place your palms down on the floor directly under your shoulders and, as you inhale, use your arms to help lift your chest off the floor. You should feel your pubic bone and legs pushing into the floor as your head moves toward the ceiling and you gently bend your back from your tailbone up through your shoulders. Breathe and hold for 15 to 30 seconds, then release on an exhale. Repeat a few times.
If you have pain during your periods, don't hesitate to reach out to a pelvic floor physical therapist for treatment. Your PT will help locate the specific areas causing you pain and use evidence-based techniques like connective tissue mobilization and trigger point release to get you feeling better.