Menstrual pain or dysmenorrhea is centered mostly in the lower abdomen and lower back. Here we look at Ayurvedic remedies for menstrual pain along with yoga, dietary, and lifestyle recommendations for menstrual pain relief.
Some surveys now estimate that almost 50% of all women experience some degree of painful menstruation.
Given the society’s majorly sedentary lifestyle and lack of exercise, painful menstruation is becoming a more prevalent problem throughout the world.
It not only causes extreme discomfort but can also impact day-to-day activities.
A systematic review of studies in developing countries performed by Harlow and Campbell (2002) revealed that about 25-50% of adult women and about 75% of adolescent girls experience pain during menstruation.
Types Of Menstrual Pain Or Dysmenorrhea
Painful menstruation is of two types – primary and secondary.1
Primary Dysmenorrhea is the pain associated with ovulatory cycles, without demonstrable lesions that affect the reproductive organs.
This kind of dysmenorrhea or painful menstruation commonly occurs in adolescent girls. It starts with the onset of menstruation and rarely persists beyond 48 hours after the onset of menstruation.
This pain usually goes away after pregnancy and vaginal delivery. The pain is related to dysrhythmic uterine contractions and uterine hypoxia.
Secondary Dysmenorrhea is the pain associated with a demonstrable pelvic pathology.
Causes of secondary dysmenorrhea include cervical stenosis, chronic pelvic infection, pelvic endometriosis, pelvic adhesions, adenomyosis, uterine fibroid, endometrial polyp, IUCD (intra uterine contraceptive device), and in-utero and pelvic congestion.
Obstruction due to Mullerian malformations are the other causes.
The pain in this form of dysmenorrhea is dull, situated in the back and in front without any radiation. It usually appears 3 to 5 days prior to the period and goes away with the onset of bleeding.
It is very essential to clinically diagnosed for this kind of menstrual pain as primary or secondary by a gynecologist before dismissing it as common women’s physiology.
Ayurvedic Perspective On Painful Menstruation Or Dysmenorrhea
All gynecologic disorders predominantly result from problems with the Vata dosha.2 After proper oleation (snehana) and sudation (swedana), purification therapies like panchakarma should be used.
Only after the proper cleansing of doshas should other medicines be given for optimum benefits. Basti (medicated enemas), virechana (purgation) are the panchakarma treatments which can relieve menstrual pain.
Oil enemas (anuvasan vasti), decoction enemas (kashaya basti) with ghee, oil, or fat can relieve dysmenorrhea.
In the classical Ayurvedic medical text Bhela Samhita it is mentioned that castor oil with haritaki (Terminalia chebula) powder (3 g) can be taken at night after food for better results.
Abhayarishta (a haritaki-based Ayurvedic formulation) is good for all types of menstrual pains3.
Diet And Lifestyle Recommendations For Preventing Menstrual Pain
- Drinking enough water during your periods can help prevent dehydration.
- Water intake can also help regulate the proper functioning of cells in the body.
- Eat healthy, warm, and fresh foods.
- Have fresh fruits like plums, dark grapes, apples, and pomegranates.
- Regular use of adrak (ginger), cumin seeds, and methi (fenugreek) in cooking.
- Take a hot bath or showers in menstrual days. Avoid cold water until your periods are over.
- Use heat sources like a heating pad or warm water bottle. This can also help with painful menstruation.
- Exercise regularly for a minimum of 30 minutes daily except during your periods.
- Ensure adequate and sound sleep of at least 6-8 hours.
- Avoid smoking and alcohol
- Reduce caffeine intake.
More Remedies For Menstrual Cramps
Drinking a cup of cinnamon or ginger tea can help you deal with painful cramps during menstruation.
Ginger tea and fenugreek tea have been found to serve as anti-inflammatory and antispasmodic agents which can help in relieving pain.
Yoga For Painful Menstruation (Dysmenorrhea)
Some Yoga poses can help in reducing the severity of many feminine conditions along with promoting health, strength, stability, and suppleness.
Yogasanas (Yoga poses) are the most convenient, accessible, drug-free, and inexpensive cure for a wide variety of conditions.
Bhujangasana (cobra pose), matsyasana (fish pose), dhanurasana (bow pose), vajrasana (thunderbolt pose), paschimotasana (seated forward bend pose), ustrasana (camel pose), ardhamatstyendrasana (half fish pose), salabhasana (butterfly pose), sarvangasana (shoulder bend pose), padmasana (lotus pose), and surya namaskara ( sun salutations).
In a study, it was observed that in 98% of the study group and 57% of the control group, the
Yoga is found to have positive effects on increasing your pain threshold (ability to tolerate pain).
involvement in daily activities was affected and college absenteeism was more. After 3 months of yoga intervention, absenteeism in college was reported to be only 10% in the study group.
Improvement in the daily activity involvement was also observed and only 10% of the study group reported disturbances.
Yogasanas have a pain-relieving effect as they improve tissue nourishment and blood and lymphatic circulation thus reducing congestion and the production of excess prostaglandin (pain signaling lipid compound) in menstrual days.
Breathing Exercises (Pranayama) and Meditation For Dysmenorrhea
Alternate Nostril Breathing
A controlled study evaluating the effects of slow pranayama breathing compared to normal breathing on pain perception demonstrated reduced ratings of pain intensity and unpleasantness, particularly for moderately versus mildly painful thermal stimuli with slow breathing.4
Consult a qualified Ayurvedic practitioner before trying the remedies and yoga poses for painful menstruation (dysmenorrhea).
- D.C. Dutta’s Textbook of Gynecology. 6th Edition. Chapter13 page 178
- Charaka Samhita Chikitsasthana edited by Yadviji Trikamji Chaukamba Surbharati Prakash Varanasi 3rd edition chapter 30 verse 61.
- Ashtanga Hrdayam Utharasthanam Chapter 34 by Acharya Vaghbhata translated by Srikantha Murthi Guhyarogprathishedam Verse no 54
- A.J. Zautra, R. Fasman, M.C. Davis, A.D. Craig The effects of slow breathing on affective responses to pain stimuli: an experimental study Pain, 149 (2010), pp. 12-18