Painful menstruation (dysmenorrhea) is a very common problem. More than one half of women who menstruate report having some pain for 1–2 days each month. However, not everyone is keen on taking drugs to mitigate pain. Yet, pain can be debilitating and does not have to be stoically endured.
If not drugs, what then? What does the evidence, both secular and scientific, suggest?
Here are three options, backed up by observations and research.
For menstrual pain, 1 gram daily (4 x 250 mg) taken for 3 days from the beginning of period provides the same relief as ibuprofen taken as recommended.
Two caveats about ginger:
A) It may cause heartburn in some people.
B) Do NOT combine high doses of ginger with blood thinners.
2) Vitamin E has demonstrated effectiveness against dysmenorrhea in several trials (1, 2, 3) In 3 double blind trials, 498 women aged between 13 and 29 year old received either vitamin E or placebo starting 2 days prior to the beginning of the period and through the first 3 days of bleeding. In all trials, the women in the vitamin E group experienced significantly better pain relief than those in the placebo group. The average dose of vitamin E was 200 UI taken twice daily for a total of 400 UI per day.
3) Lavender Oil massage was contrasted to placebo massage (soft paraffin) in 2 trials (4, 5) involving 80 women with primary menstrual pain. In both trials, lavender oil 15 minutes massage was associated with significantly better pain relief than the placebo one. It must be noted that the investigators in one of the trials produced their own, very pure lavender essential oil obtained from local sources. (Quality do matters!)
The usual, common sense disclaimer do apply: If you take any medications or supplements prescribed for health/clinical reasons, OR have a medical condition, make sure to talk with you health care practitioner before trying any treatment discussed here.
Two “facts” we came across while researching this topic
Some dietary ‘recommendations’ or statements regrading the treatment of menstrual pain are not supported by the evidence.
1) For instance, contrary to what a lot of Health & Wellness sites, including famous ones, recommend, caffeine boost the power of pain relievers. There is no logical reason to believe this booster effect would be different with, or modified by ginger or vitamin E.
2) Physical exercise is widely believed to be helpful in the prevention or mitigation of menstrual pain. However, when looking at what we really know, good quality observations and studies are few and far between. That is not to say physical exercise isn’t beneficial; just that we can’t say with authority that it is so, for the purpose of treating menstrual pain.
My hope is the information provided here will help someone obtain a welcome relief. Let me know in the comments if that was the case for you, someone you shared this post with…or a loved one.