- Provide further information regarding period pain
- Provide insight on common ways period pain symptoms may impact training and performance
- Discuss options for the self-management of period pain and when to seek further help from a medical practitioner
What is period pain?
Period pain (also known as dysmenorrhoea) is a common PMS symptom associated with the menstrual cycle.
Everyone experiences period pain differently, but it commonly happens a couple of days before your period starts. Some people may have severe cramping, while others may have more mild pain. This may manifest as cramping, heaviness, or aching, especially within the lower abdomen, back and legs.
There are two types of period pain:
Primary dysmenorrhoea is the most common type of period pain. Typically, the pain has a regular pattern, begins just before or as the period begins and usually lasts one to three days.
This is caused by natural compounds called ‘prostaglandins’ are the cause of primary dysmenorrhoea. Prostaglandins play an active role in regulating the menstrual cycle, with the most notable role being triggering the muscles in the uterus to contract and expel the uterus lining causing your menstrual period. If your levels of prostaglandins are too high, you may experience excessive abdominal cramping which is stronger and more painful than normal menstrual cramping, and/or excessive menstrual bleeding.
Secondary dysmenorrhoea is caused by an underlying reproductive disorder such as endometriosis, adenomyosis, pelvic inflammatory disease, or fibroids.
- Endometriosis is a condition in which the cells that normally line the uterus (the endometrium) throughout the body in areas outside of the uterus
- Adenomyosis is a condition in which the cells that normally line the uterus (the endometrium) also grow in the muscle wall of the uterus
- Pelvic Inflammatory disease occurs when an infection spreads from the vagina to the upper reproductive organs
- Fibroids are non-cancerous lumps or growths of muscle tissue that form within the walls of the uterus
Unfortunately, there is no easy way of discerning which type of dysmenorrhoea you may be experiencing immediately without reviewing your symptoms and medical history. This may be completed with a specialised women’s health general practitioner (GP). If you would to explore this further, please contact Ignite Athlete
How does it influence athletic performance?
While exercise has been linked to reducing painful periods, the symptoms associated with period pain may make participating in training and competition more difficult. Your estrogen and progesterone levels are also at their lowest throughout your period so you may feel less energetic and more tired than usual. Some strategies to manage these implications include ensuring your diet remains balanced, prioritising hydration and sleep in your schedule to improve recovery and addressing any stressors where possible.
How can period pain be treated and managed?
Once again, treatment will be dependent upon the type of period pain you are experiencing.
If you are experiencing primary dysmenorrhoea there are a range of treatments that you can try to self-manage your period pain including:
Anti-inflammatory medicines (e.g., ibuprofen, naproxen, mefenamic acid) stop your body from producing prostaglandins. They are the most effective when taken 48 hours before you expect to get your period, or as soon as your period starts.
Paracetamol can also help for mild cramping.
Please note, it is important that all athletes should discuss that they are starting medication with their support staff or medical team to ensure medications are approved by their sporting body.
Hormonal management strategies can also be implemented as a longer-term strategy to manage period pain. Your doctor may try using the contraceptive pill (‘The Pill’), Depo Provera injection, and Mirena to reduce pain and period flow. For more information, visit module on Menstrual Cycle Management.
Seek advice from a women’s health general practitioner (GP) to help you manage these treatments.
Other management strategies
Other strategies that you may like to try to reduce your pain include:
- Heat pack
- Meditation to reduce stress
- Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS)
Secondary dysmenorrhoea is best treated by treating the underlying cause so make sure you seek appropriate advice if symptoms are prolonged and not managed by the above.
When should I see a doctor?
If the techniques outlined above do not help in reducing your pain, or your period pain is impacting your ability to participate in your daily activities, we recommend you seek the advice of a specialised women’s health GP.
We also recommend seeking the advice of your doctor if you experience the following:
- You get pain in your pelvic area when you don’t have a period
- Any significant changes in the pattern of your period
- The absence of a period
- Heavy bleeding (e.g., flooding of pads, changing pad/tampon every hour etc.)
- Large clots present during your period
- Severe pain that impacts on your daily activities
- Vomiting or nausea
- Blood in urine or bowel motion
- Urinary incontinence
They will assess your symptoms, and where relevant, refer you onto a gynaecologist for further investigation. If you track your menstrual cycle, this log will be beneficial to bring to your appointment.
Ignite Athlete have a network of specialised General Practitioners, gynaecologists and fertility specialists across Australia who will be more than happy to speak with you and discuss your individual circumstances.
With over 50 dedicated specialists across 70 consulting locations throughout the country, our friendly staff can help you choose the right medical professional to guide you and help you achieve your sporting goals. Contact us now.
- Period pain (also known as dysmenorrhoea) is a common symptom of the menstrual cycle that can range from mild to severe and differ between people
- There are two types of period pain: primary dysmenorrhea (caused by high levels of prostaglandins) and secondary dysmenorrhea (caused by underlying reproductive disorders)
- There are many ways to self-manage period pain including medication, hormonal management strategies and techniques like heat, gentle exercise meditation, and TENS
- If your period pain is severe, is impacting your ability to participate in your daily activities or you are experiencing any of the above concerns, we recommend you seek the advice of a specialised women’s health GP