Menstrual cramps can range from a mild nuisance lasting a day or two to several days of unbearable pain that interferes with everyday activities. They’re one of the most common causes of pelvic pain and many experience them just before and during their period.
The pain is caused by uterine contractions that happen just before or during the onset of your period. But what makes the pain more severe for some people?
How Do I Know If My Cramps Are Severe?
Menstrual cramps feel like a throbbing or cramping pain in your lower abdomen. You may also feel pressure or a continuous dull ache in the area. The pain may radiate to your lower back and inner thighs.
Cramps usually begin a day or two before your period, peaking around 24 hours after your period starts. They typically last for two to three days.
Menstrual cramps can be accompanied by other symptoms, including: Nausea, fatigue, loose stools, headache and dizziness
Typical menstrual cramps are painful, but they usually respond well to over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers, including ibuprofen.
Severe cramps, however, tend to begin earlier in the menstrual cycle and last longer than typical cramps do.
What causes them?
During your period, your uterus contracts to help shed its lining. These contractions are triggered by hormone-like substances called prostaglandins. Higher levels of prostaglandins are associated with more severe menstrual cramps.
Some people tend to have more severe menstrual cramps without any clear cause. For others, severe menstrual cramps may be a symptom of an underlying medical condition.
Endometriosis is a condition that causes the tissue that usually lines your uterus to grow in other parts of your body, outside your uterus.
Pelvic pain is the most common symptom. Others include: Heavy periods, periods that last longer than seven days, bleeding between periods, gastrointestinal pain, pain with intercourse, painful bowel movements, trouble getting pregnant
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
PCOS is a common hormone disorder affecting approximately 1 in 10 Trusted Source women of childbearing age. Higher levels of androgens, which are male hormones, and irregular periods are common symptoms.
Other symptoms of PCOS include: Heavy periods, prolonged periods, excessive facial and body hair, weight gain and trouble losing weight, acne, thinning hair or hair loss, multiple skin tags, dark patches of skin, especially in the creases of the neck and groin.
Fibroids are noncancerous growths that develop inside or outside of the uterus. They range in size from as small as a seed to large masses that can cause an enlarged uterus. You can have one or more fibroids, often without symptoms.
When fibroids do causes symptoms, the symptoms vary depending on the number of fibroids, their size, and location.
Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)
PID is a bacterial infection of the female reproductive organs. It’s usually caused by sexually transmitted infections (STIs), such as chlamydia and gonorrhea. Other infections that aren’t sexually transmitted can also cause it.
Pelvic pain is the most common symptom of PID. Other symptoms include: Painful intercourse, bleeding during or after sex, foul-smelling vaginal discharge, burning sensation when urinating, fever, spotting between periods.
Cervical stenosis, which is also called a closed cervix, happens when the opening of your cervix is narrow or completely closed. You can be born with a cervical stenosis or develop it later.