Dysmenorrhea is the medical term for menstrual cramps, or the pain that many women have just before or at the beginning of their periods. This pain usually is not serious.
Menstrual cramps can feel like a dull ache in the abdomen, lower back, hips or inner thighs. The pain may start just before your period or at the beginning of your period and can last 1 to 3 days. The pain may be bad enough to keep you from doing your normal activities.
Talk to your doctor if you have any of the following symptoms:
There are two types of dysmenorrhea:
You can try using heating pads or taking a warm bath. You can buy medicines without a prescription to help with the symptoms of PMS. These medicines usually combine aspirin or acetaminophen with caffeine, antihistamines or diuretics. Some brand names include Midol, Pamprin and Premsyn PMS.
Over-the-counter pain relievers can also help with the pain. These include ibuprofen (brand names: Advil, Motrin), ketoprofen (brand name: Orudis KT) and naproxen (brand name: Aleve). These medicines work well for mild or moderate pain. If these don't help, you can talk to your doctor about a stronger pain reliever.
Your doctor might want you to try using birth control pills or a birth control shot. These medicines can make your periods less painful.
If none of these treatments work, your doctor might want to check for ovarian cysts or endometriosis. An ultrasound test lets your doctor see if you have ovarian cysts. A minor surgery called a laparoscopy (say: “lap-ah-ross-ca-pee”) is used to check for endometriosis. This is a way of looking inside your uterus by making a small cut in your skin and putting a thin tube inside.
Written by familydoctor.org editorial staff