Typically, NSAIDs (Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs) and Combined Oral Contraceptives (COCs), like the birth control pill, are the go-to's for period pain management.
There are alternative natural remedies, however!
Heat: is thought to work by increasing blood flow to the abdominal area, activating heat sensors in the skin, and, thus, reducing signals of pain and works best for short-term pain reduction.
Magnesium: one of the body’s most essential nutrients, it reduces prostaglandins and relaxes the uterine smooth muscle. Magnesium bisglycinate is recommended for best absorption by the body and muscles and doesn’t act primarily as an osmotic laxative (but may cause loose stools at higher amounts).
Acupuncture: this practitioner-favorite helps energy levels and gets blood flowing smoothly. Acupuncture helps to stimulate the nervous system and release natural opioids and serotonin and has been shown to be more effective at reducing pain than NSAIDs. It’s also been shown to be effective in a short time period.
Registered Acupuncturists or Naturopathic Doctors are able to administer this treatment before or during your period. They can also teach you acupressure, which is pressure applied to acupuncture points using fingers, knuckles, or thumbs. It has a similar effect to acupuncture, but may not penetrate the meridians as deeply.
Cinnamon: An antioxidant, antimicrobial, and anti-inflammatory spice. Historically, it’s been used for abdominal cramps.
Ginger: This herb targets prostaglandin production, improves blood circulation, decreases inflammation and reduces the sensation of nausea. Studies have shown that ginger used a few days before the menstrual cycle, and a couple of days into it, can decrease pain compared to NSAIDs.
Lavender: Lavender has been used for the acute treatment of dysmenorrhea. Studies suggest essential oils are able to stimulate the part of the brain responsible for smell and may release chemicals like endorphins and serotonin, resulting in relaxation and stress reduction. Inhalation has been shown as the most effective type of aromatherapy as it’s the fastest way to get into the body.
Fish Oil & Vitamin E: The two have been shown to suppress prostaglandin production. When taken together at the beginning of menstruation, it can significantly decrease pain intensity. Studies show that fish oil taken alone is more effective at reducing period pain than NSAIDs.
Exercise: Being active reduces stress, pain, and prostaglandin synthesis. Many studies have found that low-intensity exercise like yoga and stretching showed the largest and most consistent benefit at reducing pain compared to no treatment and a moderate reduction when compared to NSAIDs. It might be because it can lessen cortisol levels, thereby reducing prostaglandin synthesis.