Tips for managing period pain (that actually work).

New Girl’s Jess Day likens it to a fat man sitting on her uterus, while English actress Carrie Hope Fletcher says “it’s like someone has reached into your gut and is just twisting everything”.

Painful periods are extremely common, yet the symptoms differ from one woman to the next. For some it’s a sensation of heaviness in the pelvic region, while other women experience a constant dull ache or sharp twinges. As if that’s not enough to deal with, nausea, headaches, bloating, diarrhoea and back pain also have a tendency to gate crash the party. Fun!

Although menstrual pain is usually short-lived and manageable, it can be debilitating. Severe period pain that lasts more than a couple of days can signal an underlying medical condition like endometriosis, so make sure you speak to your doctor if this is the case for you.

Related: “I got my period while running a marathon and I decided to let it flow.”

Generally, though, you don’t need to be concerned – just prepared. Considering the average menstruating woman in Australia will have up to 500 periods in her lifetime (yes, really), it’s worth having some pain-relieving tactics in your armoury that work for you. Here are five that could do the trick.

1. Pain relief medication.

Pain relief medication for pain – ground-breaking, I know. However, when it comes to period pain and cramping, some drugs are more effective than others.

Paracetamol can be helpful for general period-related soreness, but it won’t reduce cramping. If you’re suffering cramps, medications such as ibuprofen, naproxen and mefenamic acid are more effective – especially when they’re taken at the onset of your pain.

Keep in mind these drugs can cause stomach irritation, and also will only provide short term solutions to your pain. For longer term benefits it’s important to look into your diet, exercise and natural remedies that can be taken for longer periods of time.

Related: Why I am I 60 per cent more clumsy around my period?

2. Exercise.

It’s probably the last thing you feel like doing, but it could help you feel better. While research seems divided on how effective it actually is, gentle, low impact exercise – like swimming or walking – is commonly recommended as a potential pain relief method.

If you decide to get physical, avoid workouts that involve your lower abdominal muscles (i.e. your ‘core’) because that could worsen any pain you’re experiencing down there.


3. Diet.

It’s tempting to reach for comfort foods (well hello, mudcake) when you’re in the throes of menstrual cramps, but certain foods are believed to offer actual comfort. Fill your pantry with items that are natural, plant-based, high in good fats and fibre – your bowels will thank you - and low in sugar.

Think nuts and seeds, green leafy veggies, legumes, salmon, fruit and aromatic spices like ginger. Beverage-wise, herbal teas can also offer comfort… and probably steer clear of alcohol.

Take a look at these 7 period-friendly foods (Post continues after gallery).

4. Apply some heat.

Type “period pain” into Google Images and you’ll be confronted with dozens of stock image models wincing and clutching hot water bottles to their stomachs. It’s a popular period stereotype, but there’s a good reason for it – according to a 2006 study, heat can temporarily “deactivate” the body’s pain responses in the same way a painkiller does, offering up to an hour of relief.

Heat applied to the stomach or back could also help relax the muscles in that area. So if you’re suffering from cramps, run yourself a warm bath or get comfortable with a heating pad or hot water bottle (and Netflix, to distract you from the ache).

Related: How your menstrual cycle can impact your exercise routine.

5. Herbal remedies and supplements.

Many women find herbal remedies and nutritional supplements useful in treating cramps as well as PMS.

Some herbs have been traditionally used for pain relief, and there is some research to demonstrate the benefits of supplements like vitamins B1 and B6, fish oil and magnesium in reducing period-related pain. Before taking any of these supplements though, consult your doctor, as they may interact with other medications you’re taking.

Although it’s a pain (quite literally) to deal with, period pain is your body’s way of telling you something’s happening – and, thanks to tricks like these ones, it doesn’t have to steal your happiness every month.

Are there other relief tricks we've missed?