Painful Periods: How much is too much?
Period pain is common and so it is common to believe that it is normal. However, 20% of women experience cramping that is severe enough to interfere with their daily activities, keeping them home from work or school; which is NOT normal. Since these women believe that it is normal to have pain with their cycles, they often suffer through it, every month, relying on pain killers to get through the day.
Normal period pain should not keep you from performing your normal daily activities and should be relieved easily with over-the-counter anti-inflammatories or other simple treatments.
Severe period pain could indicate fibroids, adenomyosis or endometriosis. Suffering in silence means delayed treatment and potential worsening of the condition over time.
What is Normal?
Normal period pain occurs the day before your start to menstruate up until day 2 of your flow. It is described as crampy, NOT sharp or stabbing, in the lower abdomen and back; and is improved with low dose anti-inflammatories. It does not interfere with daily activities and generally gets better with age.
Pathological Period Pain
When period pain is not normal it lasts for many days and can even occur between periods. It can be described as severe cramping, sharp, stabbing, and/or throbbing, and can sometimes be so bad that it causes vomiting. This type of pain is not always relieved by pain medication, and it often takes much more medication to achieve even temporary relief.
Since this type of pain is commonly associated with an underlying pathology simply taking a birth control pill and forgetting about it is not the best solution. Finding the underlying cause is important.
What if it is Endometriosis?
Endometriosis is a condition that is estimated to affect 1 in 10 women between the ages of 15 and 49. It can occur as early as a girl’s first period and is not always resolved by menopause. In addition, it is under-diagnosed, taking an average of 7-10 years before being properly identified.
Endometriosis is a whole body inflammatory disease characterized by the presence of endometrial lesions (tissues similar to the uterine lining) located in areas outside of the uterus including the bowel and bladder. It is triggered by cyclic hormonal changes but can cause symptoms at any time of the cycle. Non-specific symptoms like IBS-type bowel habits, abdominal pain, pain during intercourse, bleeding between periods and bladder issues, makes this illness challenging to identify. In addition, a normal ultrasound cannot rule out endometriosis or adenomyosis; the only way to definitively rule it out is laparoscopic investigation.
There is no “cure” for endometriosis. Drug options for endometriosis block cycling hormones and generally come with a lot of side effects. Most women need surgery to remove the endometrial lesions, which can help to decrease the progression of illness and relieve pain. For some women, the only option is a hysterectomy, even at an early age.
Naturopathic treatments for endometriosis can be extremely helpful in decreasing the amount of medication needed, delaying surgery, and/or improving the efficacy of surgery. Natural treatment focuses on reducing inflammation, correcting hormone imbalance and supplementing with antioxidants. This can be done with specific dietary changes, supplementation and IV vitamin therapy. Naturopathic treatment will also support fertility.
What to do Next if you have Severe Pelvic Pain?
If you have chronic pelvic pain that is not relieved by medication you need to fight for an answer. Find a practitioner that will listen to you, and hear that the severity of pain that you are experiencing is NOT normal. YOUR NATUROPATHIC DOCTOR CAN HELP GET THIS INVESTIGATION STARTED and help you navigate which tests you should be asking for. As you are looking for answers we can start you on a holistic treatment plan that will help you to start to feel better. If you have already been diagnosed with Endometriosis, fibroids or adenomyosis, whether you are currently on medication or not, a holistic plan can improve your outcomes further!
I’m here to help. Don’t suffer in silence.
Dr. Lisa Maddalena, ND