Dysmenorrhea is the medical term given to describe painful periods that are often extreme and debilitating.  Many women experience painful periods and cramping along with other symptoms, but the severity can vary between individuals.

I can completely empathise with women who suffer from debilitating period pain as it is something I have experienced much of my menstrual life.  Along with extreme pain that often isn’t alleviated by pain medication, it may be accompanied by other symptoms such as extreme fatigue, nausea, vomiting, and back pain.

Dysmenorrhea can be primary or secondary. Primary usually starts in early menstrual life with no underlying cause. Women with primary dysmenorrhoea are reported to produce more than the usual number of inflammatory chemicals (known as prostaglandins) that stimulate contraction of the uterus, which results in pain and cramping. Secondary dysmenorrhoea however may come later in menstrual life and be the result of an underlying issue like endometriosis, fibroids or pelvic infection for example. Management or resolution of these issues may help improve menstrual pain.

Is period pain normal and something we should just accept?  Not really, but it is common and there are many factors that may potentially be contributing.  In the society we live in women are expected to manage their symptoms and this has led us to see our periods as a burden.  In contrast to what we feel we are expected to do (put up with and get on with it), our bodies innate wisdom is often telling us we need to slow down and nurture ourselves.

Relaxed Woman

the benefits of a healthy diet and diet has shown to play a role in dysmenorrhoea.  Sugar, refined carbohydrates, alcohol, caffeine, saturated fats and hydronated oils can increase inflammation and influence hormone regulation and synthesis worsening symptoms, especially pain, cramping and bloating. You don’t have to cut out these things entirely, but moderation is key. Some women report limiting these foods or what they know aggravates their own symptoms in the week leading up to menstruation to be helpful.

Each woman’s experience of her monthly cycle is individual.  Some women never experience pain while other’s may find it impairs their ability to go about their life.  Periods, especially extreme pain is something that should be addressed, and it is always best to have your GP investigate and rule out any underlying issues.  Additionally, ask your GP, Osteopath or Health Practitioner for advice on how they may help you to manage your pain and symptoms.

Read more about Visceral Osteopathy.



Lacovides. S, Avidon. I, Baker. FC. What we know about primary dysmenorrhea today: a critical review. Human Reproduction Update. Nov 2015;  21(6):762-78.

L Wang, X Wang, W Wang, et al. Stress and dysmenorrhoea: a population based prospective study. Occup Environ Med. 2004 Dec; 61(12): 1021–26.

Berkley. KJ. Primary Dysmenhorrea: An Urgent Mandate. IASP. Oct 2013; 21(3):1-8.

Proctor. M & Farquhar. C. Diagnosis and Management of Dysmenorrhea.  BMJ. May 2006; 332(7550): 1134–38.

Najafi. N, Khalkhali. H, et al. Major dietary patterns in relation to menstrual pain: a nested case control study. BMC Womens Health. 2018; 18: 69.

Bavil DA, Dolatian. M, et al. Comparisons of Lifestyles of young women with and without primary dysmenorrhea. Electron Physician. 2016 Mar; 8(3): 2107–14.

Blakey. H, Chisholm. C, & Dear. F, et al. Is exercise associated with primary dysmenorrhoea in young women? BJOG. May 2010; 117:222-24.