top of page

Exercise and Menstrual Cramps

Heating pad. Salt and vinegar potato chips. TV remote control. These creature comforts help many women get through that time of the month while they’re curled up on the couch. But there is a better way to ride out the bloating, cramps and nausea that often accompany periods. The answer is just a walk, bike ride or yoga class away.

What are menstrual cramps?

Every month, the lining of the uterus, or endometrium, builds up to prepare for pregnancy. If the egg released by ovaries is not fertilised, the thickened endometrium is shed. At the time of the period, the arteries clamp down and there’s a sloughing of the tissues that had built up during the second half of the cycle.

As the old lining starts to break down, hormone-like substances called prostaglandins are released. Prostaglandins cause smooth muscles in the uterus to contract, restricting the flow of blood and oxygen to the endometrium, which dies. These muscular contractions, or cramps, squeeze the dead endometrial tissue, the menstrual flow, through the cervix and out through the vagina.

Cramps usually begin a day before the first day of the menstruation and peak the next day. They can be felt in several areas - lower abdomen, lower back, hips and thighs. They range from mild to severe.

How strong the cramps are may be linked to the amount of prostaglandins and leukotrienes, chemical messengers that cause inflammation and trigger contractions, her body produces. It may also be a function of nerve stimulation.

What does data say?

Period pain, or dysmenorrhea affects nearly all women at some point in their lives. Sometimes symptoms can become severe, affecting socialising, relationships and quality of life. It remains difficult for women to talk about.

Upto 9 out of 10 women suffer dysmenorrhea with about 1 in 10 cases described as severe. Most women have their lives affected by period pain to some degree, be it missing school physical education or swimming classes, pain during parties or social engagements, or just suboptimal performance at work.

What are we already doing to reduce the period pain?

Most period pain is simple and does not have any underlying medical cause. This type of pain is caused by increased chemicals called prostaglandins in the womb lining which leads to painful cramping. Medicines such as Ibuprofen act to reduce painful cramping by reducing the prostaglandins levels.

And for period pains associated with any underlying medical condition, we seek medical advice from gynaecologists.

Pain relief the natural way

The feel-good chemical in your brain, called an endorphin, is produced by the pituitary gland and hypothalamus when you exercise. Endorphin is the natural version of morphine, the opiate pain reliever. It increases the threshold at which you feel pain. Endorphins also improves your mood and gives you a sense of well-being. That’s why marathoners can become mileage junkies, logging in long hours and experiencing the so-called “runner’s high”.

So it makes sense that if you can do something physically to produce more endorphins, it’s bound to take your mind off your body. You don’t have to be an ultra-marathoner, though. Even 30-minute exercise segments can provide a positive effect.

Movement is medicine. All you need is to get the thought of “I can’t do it” out of your mind and the results can be surprisingly good for your body and for yourself.

What are the kinds of options in exercise that you can try?

As long as you like to move, you can find different ways to move through pain while menstruating to ease your pain. Some of them are as follows:

  1. Gentle stretching of the lower back or abdominal muscles might spell relief. You’re providing a different sensory input to that area, so it might help to alleviate some of the sensation of the cramping. Low back Physiotherapy exercises include knee-to-chest exercises and lower-trunk rotation. Progressive muscle release—starting at your head or feet and tensing, then relaxing different muscle groups—might also help with cramps.

  2. Certain yoga poses can help women dealing with painful cramps. A study showed that pain intensity and duration were significantly lower in approximately 100 adolescent women with primary dysmenorrhea who performed the cat, cobra and fish poses. Plus, there’s the added benefit of mindful meditation and focused breathing. With yoga, you have the whole mind-body connection.

But with your body feeling like one big throbbing cramp, it’s probably best to refrain from vigorous exercise during your period, say experts. Women may not feel they’re able to even develop the energy to do high-intensity activity. Whatever it is that you are doing, make sure you do it as per your body’s feels. Don’t push if you don’t feel like pushing.

VyomFIT’s “S&C for Women” is a program that helps women prevent/cure lifestyle disorders like Irregular menstrual cycle, fertility issues, thyroid management etc using our Strength & Conditioning classes curated specially for women. Naturally, an important part of the program is to help women deal with exercise during their periods and how to make them painfree.

If you would like to discuss your case with our experts, book a FREE 15 min Consultation.

31 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All
bottom of page