Dysmenorrhea is severe cramping or spasmodic pain in the pelvic region that happens just before or during menstruation. It is one of the biggest menstrual problems faced by young females and adolescent girls.
Dysmenorrhea is one of the most common reasons for non-attendance at school or work among young women. Although it is not life-threatening, it can have a considerable impact on the patient’s quality of life.
Period Pain – Common Issues
Faulty and sedentary lifestyle, malnutrition, incompatible and highly processed foods, and stressful situations push the reproductive health of women off track. This imbalance is reflected into the menstrual cycle, which then becomes painful, irregular, or completely absent in some.
Symptoms such as back pain and extreme fatigue accompany lower abdomen pain in Dysmenorrhea. It is important to pay attention to it as this condition significantly interferes with millions of women’s everyday activities for several days each month.
Most of the pharmacological prescriptions for dysmenorrhea involve non-addictive, analgesic, and antispasmodics drugs. For long term use, these medications are not good for health of the patient as they aggravate the gastrointestinal symptoms that accompany the condition. In addition these medications lead to headache, dizziness, drowsiness and blurred vision.
High-Risk group for Period Pain
A recent systemic review of the world literature on chronic pelvic pain reports the prevalence of dysmenorrhea ranging between 17% and 80%.
More than 50% of post-pubescent menstruating women are affected by dysmenorrhea, with 10-12% of them having severe dysmenorrhea with incapacitation for 1-3 days each month.
Dysmenorrhea is very frequent amongst adolescents or young women who have just attained menarche. It is the most common in women between the ages of 20 and 24 years, with most of the severe episodes occurring before 25 years of age.
While the prevalence is very high, it is NOT normal to have painful periods. In Ayurveda, period pain or any symptom related with menstruation is considered to be a sign of imbalance.
Symptoms of Dysmenorrhea
- Usually, cramping pain begins few hours before menstruation and subsides after regular flow is established.
- The first 24 hours is the most painful time.
- Affected areas include lower abdominal region spreading to hips, lower back, and may also involve inner thighs.
- This pain has different types including: sharp, throbbing, or dull.
It can also be associated with other symptoms as: nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea or constipation, headaches, fainting, etc.
Also, some women may suffer from premenstrual symptoms such as tender breasts and a swollen abdomen. These may continue throughout the period and pain may continue after the first 24 hours.
Types of Dysmenorrhea
It is also known as idiopathic, spasmodic, essential or true dysmenorrhea. Primary Dysmenorrhea refers to the painful menses with normal pelvic anatomy and in the absence of any identifiable pelvic disease.
It tends to occur in younger women with no pelvic abnormality, particularly in the first few years after menarche. It is mostly affecting more than 50% of women and quite severe in about 10%. Also, Primary dysmenorrhea occurs more frequently in unmarried women than in married women (61% vs. 51%).
It refers to pain which arises as a result of underlying health conditions. It usually begins in older women in the third or fourth decade of their lives. It may be caused by a number of conditions including:
- Fibroids (benign tumors within the uterine wall).
- Endometriosis (gynecological disorders)
- Sexually transmitted infections.
- Pelvic inflammatory disease.
- Ovarian cyst or tumor.
- Use of an intrauterine device.
Dysmenorrhea and Ayurveda
In Ayurveda, Dysmenorrhea can be considered as one of Kashtartava symptoms. Kashta means painful, while Atrava means substance flows out from the body at specific time.
Dysmenorrhea is a disease of reproductive tract (Yoni Roga) situated in the pelvic region. This region consider as the one of the main place of Vata Dosha. So, the disturbance of Vata Dosha, mainly Apana vayu leads to Dysmenorrhea.
Vata Dosha disturbance is mainly responsible of pain over other Doshas, i.e. without Vata vitiation, no pain occurs. Vata disturbance can present alone or with Pitta Dosha and Kapha Dosha, leading to additional symptoms.
Treatment of Dysmenorrhea
Vihara – Lifestyle Changes
- Exercise regularly-minimum thrice a week.
- Ensure a sound sleep of at least 6-8 hours.
- Avoid smoking and alcohol Reduce caffeine.
- Do Pranayama, nature walks, and / or yoga asanas
Ahara – Diet and Food Habits
- Eat healthy, warm and fresh foods.
- Avoid fermented, fried, spicy, and oily foods during menstruation.
- Eat 5-6 small meals.
- Have fresh fruits like plums, dark grapes, apples, and pomegranate.
- Eat more leafy vegetables.
- Regularly use ginger in food preparation.
- Avoid high fat and sugar.
- Take supplements like calcium, magnesium, vitamin E, B6 B12.
Yoga activities can help to reduce and prevent the severity of many ailments that specifically women’s health and give strength, stability, and suppleness.
Yogasanas are considered as the most convenient, drugless, and inexpensive method. Yoga is also found to have an encouraging effect on increasing the pain threshold capacity in individuals.
In Yoga, various types of Asanas have been mentioned. Among them Ushtrasana, Bhadrasana, Gomukhasana, and Vajrayana have a pain relieving effect.
According to Ayurveda, menstruation is guarded by Vata Dosha. Derangement or aggravation of Vata Dosha gives rise to this symptom. The treatment, which alleviates Vata, gives excellent results in this disease.
Panchakarma treatments like Uttarbasti, anuvasa or matrabasti are the treatments which will specifically target derangement of Vata in menstrual problems.
Garbhashaya balya aushadhi will also reduce associated symptoms.