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We all know exactly what we talk about when we talk about period pain. While we may all experience it slightly differently and it’s not always clear why or how it affects some people more than others, period pain – also known as dysmenorrhea, cramps, and variations on ‘holy-shit-my-uterus-is-trying-to-kill-me’ – always makes itself known.
Dysmenorrhea affects a whopping half of those of us with uteruses, with 1 in 5 of us experiencing cramps bad enough to regularly interfere with daily activities. Some people will be able to go about their days with one hand absentmindedly placed above their uterus like they’re cradling a baby, while others you’ll find crouched in the stock room, staff room, or [insert hiding place here] at work, clutching their entire lower belly with one arm and a pack of almost-empty painkillers in the other, moaning in pain. And others still won’t show up at all, because their cramps have them absolutely bedridden (sidenote: if this is you, seek help from a doctor. You do not have to ‘put up with’ utterly debilitating pains, ever).
So – what actually is period pain?
In simple terms, a period is the shedding of the uterus lining. A big part of the way our bodies try to shed this lining is by aggressively contracting to compress the blood vessels lining your womb. This process of contraction prevents oxygen from reaching the uterus which contains tissues that release chemicals that trigger pain when they are deprived of oxygen. Prostaglandin, a hormone released across the body for healing injuries, is released to regulate the contraction and relaxation of the uterus to help shed its lining. This aggressive contracting of the uterus muscles themselves also contributes to the pain, leading to what we know of as cramps. It’s not always fun to experience, but think of it as your uterus’s way of cleaning itself.
Then there are the other aches and pains that plague us during our period, such as muscle tension. Muscle tension is mostly caused by the effects of stress on the muscles. Stress causes the body to release cortisol, which taps into the protein stores to prepare the muscles for flight, fight, or freeze. When muscles contract for periods of time it can lead to long-term muscle pains as a result of the body’s nervous system reducing blood flow to the muscles, leaving them with less oxygen and causing a buildup of lactic acid (responsible for that ‘knotty’ feeling we feel when our muscles are giving us grief).
How can we deal with it?
A popular way to deal with period pain is popping some painkillers. From ibuprofen to paracetamol, pill packets are a staple of many of our handbags and bathroom cabinets and can help ease everything from your menstrual migraines to your period cramps. However, these options come with a slew of potential side effects that we’re not always aware of and not necessarily game to risk once we find out.
NSAIDs (Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs) such as ibuprofen, aspirin, and naproxen, have huge lists of side-effects such as stomach pains, vomiting, dizziness, heartburn, and rashes, to name a few. While paracetamol is usually not classified as an NSAID because it only has minor anti-inflammatory effects, it has also been linked to similar side effects, particularly flu-like symptoms such as fever, pain, and extreme fatigue.
We’re never gonna shame anyone for the medication they chose to take – especially because you can never really know what another person is experiencing or how their cramps affect them. For us at ohne, however, we’re huge fans of all-natural, organic alternatives to pretty much everything, including pain meds. Check out five all-natural alternatives to NSAIDs for tackling period pains.
Why we love CBD for period pain
We’ve understandably given CBD a lot of airtime here on fem space. But we think it’s important, while talking about period pain, to reiterate exactly why we decided to create the UK’s first pro-period CBD just a little over a year ago.
CBD (the totally legal cannabinoid extracted from the cannabis sativa plant) has been found to have a relaxant and analgesic effects which can help relax muscles. Remember the aggressively contracting uterus muscles we mentioned above? By getting those muscles to chill out and relax a bit, the ‘cramping’ we experience as a result is going to be significantly reduced.
Another reason we love it is that CBD can also hold its own against NSAIDs. CBD has been known to help reduce inflammation – without any of the associated risks and side effects of NSAIDs (good at reducing inflammation) or paracetamol (not so good at reducing inflammation), but with the added bonus of being totally natural and plant-based.
In holy cramp, we’ve included a bunch of essential oils which all have healing properties in their own right. Most interestingly, they’re also there to enhance the properties of the CBD itself. Lemon oil can help reduce the nausea than can accompany severe period pains, lemongrass oil and argan oil both have anti-inflammatory properties, and lavender oil has been known to be a great soother of muscular pain.
CBD vs NSAIDs: battle of the acronyms
It’s no secret that CBD gets our vote, but ultimately it’s completely up to you to decide how you want to manage your period pain. Only you know what you’re experiencing, what helps you, and which methods you’re comfortable with and fit easily into your routine. Our main mission at ohne is to share knowledge and experience. We want to make sure you know your options and understand exactly what is in the products you’re opting for, their side-effects, and their associated risks. And it’s important to note that if you’re experiencing extreme pain of any kind, you should seek medical help – neither of these options are a substitute for treating serious medical issues that need prescription meds or other treatments.
If you are interested in going chemical-free with your pain management products, there are a bunch of ways to treat period pain and other ailments that don’t involve pill-popping – just do your research, ask friends and brands you trust for advice, and trust your own instincts – at the end of the day, you’re the one who knows what’s best for your body. Check out our Pro-Period CBD archives to learn more about CBD and never hesitate to slide into the DMs if you can’t see your questions answered anywhere – we love hearing from you.
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