Dysmenorrhea is the medical term for painful menstrual periods which are caused by uterine contractions. Primary dysmenorrhea refers to recurrent pain, while secondary dysmenorrhea results from reproductive system disorders. Both can be treated.

Causes of Dysmenorrhea

  • Menstrual cramps happen when a chemical called prostaglandin makes the uterus contract (tighten up).

  • The uterus, the muscular organ where a fetus grows, contracts throughout your menstrual cycle.

  • During menstruation, the uterus contracts more strongly.

  • If the uterus contracts too strongly, it can press against nearby blood vessels, cutting off the supply of oxygen to muscle tissue.

  • You feel pain when part of the muscle briefly loses its supply of oxygen.

How does secondary dysmenorrhea cause menstrual cramps?

Menstrual pain from secondary dysmenorrhea is a result of problems with the reproductive organs. Conditions that can cause cramping include:


A condition in which the tissue lining the uterus (the endometrium) is found outside of the uterus. Because these pieces of tissue bleed during your period, they can cause swelling, scarring and pain.


A condition where the lining of the uterus grows into the muscle of the uterus. This condition can cause the uterus to get much bigger than it should be, along with abnormal bleeding and pain.

Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)

An infection caused by bacteria that starts in the uterus and can spread to other reproductive organs. PID can cause pain in the stomach or pain during sex.

Cervical stenosis

Narrowing of the cervix, or the opening to the uterus.

Fibroids (benign tumors)

Growths on the inside, outside or in the walls of the uterus

Symptoms of Dysmenorrhea

  • Aching pain in the abdomen (pain may be severe at times).

  • Feeling of pressure in the abdomen.

  • Pain in the hips, lower back and inner thighs.

Treatment of Dysmenorrhea

To relieve mild menstrual cramps:

  • For the best relief, take ibuprofen as soon as bleeding or cramping starts.

  • Ibuprofen belongs to a class of drugs called non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).

  • They reduce the output of prostaglandins. If you can’t take NSAIDs, you can take another pain reliever like acetaminophen.

  • Place a heating pad or hot water bottle on your lower back or abdomen.

  • Rest when needed.

  • Avoid foods that contain caffeine.

  • Avoid smoking and drinking alcohol.

  • Massage your lower back and abdomen.

diseases treatments health prevention reproductive-system disorders dysmenorrhea

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