How to Treat Period Cramps Naturally with Alternative Therapies
Discover how to treat period pain with safe, natural therapies like acupuncture, naturopathy, foods, herbs, physical therapy, and counseling.
·November 3rd, 2021
Period cramps are common, but moderate to severe pain is not normal.
Complementary and alternative therapies are effective with or without conventional treatments.
Many types of alternative and complementary treatments effectively relieve menstrual cramps.
Using multiple approaches to relieve menstrual cramps may be more effective than just using one kind of treatment.
Talk to your healthcare provider about how to treat period cramps with complementary therapies.
Sound Cycle can help you find a provider to address your menstrual cramps.
Fifty to ninety percent of adolescent and young women experience period pain, also called menstrual cramps or dysmenorrhea. It is the most common type of menstrual symptom, yet conventional treatment methods don’t work for all women. In this article, we’ll talk about how to treat period cramps naturally with alternative therapies that are gentle, safe, and effective.
Most menstrual discomfort is not due to a medical problem; however, it is crucial that if you experience period pain regularly, you discuss it with your healthcare practitioner. Moderate to severe period pain is common, but despite what many women think, it is not normal.
Conventional practitioners most often recommend nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS), such as ibuprofen (Advil) or naproxen sodium (Aleve) to relieve menstrual pain. Sometimes providers recommend hormonal therapies, such as oral contraceptives.
These treatments are not always effective or desirable for all women and people who menstruate. Fortunately, there are several holistic options available. Complementary and alternative approaches, also known as integrative approaches, may be used instead of or in addition to conventional treatment, but if you try any alternative treatments, be sure to tell your providers of all the therapies that you are using.
How to treat period pain naturally
Alternative and complementary treatments can relieve period pain in many ways, and several types of holistic practitioners may be able to help you. Many practitioners offer multiple modalities of treatment to create a customized treatment plan for you.
The chart below shows some of the most effective therapies and summarizes how they work.
Enhances blood flow, flow and balance of energy, and inflammation
External treatments relieve discomfort
Prevent and treat pain
Correct underlying imbalances and relieve inflammation
Teaches how to manage pain through the mind-body connection
Acupuncture for period cramps
Acupuncture relieves pain by correcting energy imbalances.
When you meet with an acupuncturist or traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) expert, the provider will conduct a detailed evaluation of your history, pain, and energy patterns.
An acupuncture treatment session can quickly relieve acute pain. However, it is most effective when treatments are ongoing. As energy imbalances are corrected, period pain episodes decrease.
From a Western perspective, acupuncture works by stimulating the nervous system, which promotes blood flow to the tissues, glands, and organs. Researchers have also discovered that acupuncture can reduce inflammation, which causes pain.
A 2018 study revealed that women who received acupuncture experienced reduced pain and menstrual cramps. They also had fewer gastrointestinal issues, mood changes, headaches, fatigue, and dizziness.
TCM practitioners may also recommend herbs and exercises to enhance your overall level of wellness and vitality.
Naturopathic and holistic therapies for period cramps
Many naturopathic and holistic medical practitioners use heat and cold to relieve menstrual pain. Here are a few ways to do that:
Heating pad. Continuous heat can be as effective as ibuprofen for relieving menstrual cramps. Moist heating pads and microwavable rice packs relax muscles and promote relaxation.
Cold packs. Cold relieves swelling and inflammation.
Warm castor oil packs. These products can relieve pain quickly.
Contrast sitz baths. Alternating hot and cold water are effective for many women.
Naturopathic and holistic practitioners use a wide array of internal and external treatments to optimize your health and enhance your comfort.
Herbal therapy for period cramps
Herbal therapies support healthy hormone balance and relieve menstrual discomfort.
Herbalists employ plants internally and externally to relieve menstrual pain and enhance overall well-being. Herbalists often recommend these herbs to relieve period pain:
Nutritionists and dieticians recommend foods and supplements that can nourish and tone your entire body. Try eating a plant-based diet and avoiding foods that promote inflammation, such as highly processed foods.
A nutritionist or dietitian can create a customized diet for you that can gradually relieve menstrual pain and improve your health overall.
Nutrition experts often recommend these supplements to reduce and prevent period pain:
Omega 3 fatty acids
Always inform all of your providers of any supplements you are considering or already taking. Some supplements can cause dangerous herb-drug interactions or interfere with other treatments, such as complementary therapy or radiation.
Physical therapy for period cramps
You may not have considered physical therapy to treat period pain. However, physical therapy (also called physiotherapy) can be very effective. Stretching and pelvic floor exercises can reduce the duration and intensity of menstrual pain. Stretching may prevent pain from radiating to the back and sides.
Kegel exercises may improve circulation to the uterus and promote release of prostaglandins, which can decrease pain intensity. Therapists may use several other treatments such as therapeutic massage techniques or transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) to relieve your pain.
Physical therapists may also teach you how to relax your pelvic muscles to ease stress and reduce pain.
Behavioral therapies for period cramps
Behavioral therapy, and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) in particular, can be an important component of pain management programs. Practitioners are becoming increasingly aware that CBT can effectively relieve painful period cramps and other symptoms.
A 2020 study revealed that CBT for period cramps is effective in reducing menstrual pain, and the pain-relieving effects can be long-lasting.
People who experience menstrual pain may feel depressed, tired, irritable, and anxious. What’s more, the symptoms tend to feed off each other. For example, if you can’t sleep and are stressed, you will not be feeling your best. Your muscles will tense, and your pain levels can increase, which can then worsen depression, leading to more trouble sleeping.
CBT provides you with tools to break that cycle. A CBT therapist will help you identify and change negative thought patterns and behaviors that can lead to pain, depression, and a feeling of having no control over your situation.
Make period pain a thing of the past
You do not have to keep suffering from menstrual cramps. Not only will you relieve period pain when you partner with an alternative or complementary healthcare provider, but you will also experience increased vitality, ease, and freedom.
A wide array of treatments is available. Sound Cycle can help you decide which approach and type of practitioner is best suited to get you feeling better. Follow our blog for more information on complementary and alternative therapies for menstrual health, and visit our provider directory to find a natural healing practitioner near you.