How to Beat the Monthly Misery of Period Pain

26 October 2004

Publication: Daily Express

Three-quarters of women reach for painkillers every month to ease cramps and aches but there are many effective alternatives available

Most women have painful periods at some time in their lives and for many the discomfort is a regular part of their monthly cycle. Research shows that around 70 per cent of women resort to painkillers during their period, while half say their pain is bad enough to disrupt their day-to-day lives. Here we look at some of the best ways to beat it.

PAINKILLERSNon-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen and Neurofen provide the most effective over-the-counter relief for period pains. They reduce blood flow and help block the production of prostaglandins – substances that contribute to period pain. There is a stronger version called mefenamic acid (brand name Ponstan) but it is available only on prescription. Codeine-based brands such as Feminax contain a combination of painkillers which block the pain receptors at the ends of the nerves and stop the pain from registering in the brain.

THE PILL/COILThe contraceptive Pill and coil can help reduce pain and make periods lighter. Some coils release the hormone progesterone which helps prevent the lining of the womb thickening. This reduces blood loss during a period by more than 70 per cent, which helps ease the discomfort. The Pill has a similar effect. However both the coil and Pill can have side-effects such as headaches, bloating and longer-term health risks.

HEATHeat helps soothe the muscles around the womb and many women find a hot bath or a hot water bottle placed on their abdomen or back can help. More convenient solutions include a heat pack which can be warmed in the microwave. There are also heat patches such as Cura-Heat, which are worn in the underwear and help soothe the pain of contracting muscles.

Lavender herbal heat pack costs £19.99, tel: 08702415471 or see Cura-heat costs £3.99 for three patches and is available from Boots

MAGNETSAnother drug-free solution is a magnet that helps improve the blood flow in the pelvic area. This helps prevent the womb muscles from cramping and so reduces pain. Trials have found it helps as many as 80 per cent of women who suffer from period pain. The device is the size of a 50p piece and is worn inside underwear.

The LadyCare magnet costs £14.99 and is available from Lloyds chemists or by mail order on 08000838645 or see

DIETHaving a diet rich in essential fatty acids has been found to help make periods lighter and less painful. Oily fish such as salmon, trout and mackerel, Columbus Eggs from seed-fed chickens, and seeds are all good sources of these acids. Evening primrose oil can have a similar effect. During your period avoid frozen foods such as ice-cream, which can increase cramps. Efamol Pure Evening Primrose Oil is available from Boots and costs £3.99 for 30 capsules ...

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