It is normal for women to experience abdominal pain, bloating and lethargy during their menstrual cycle. Some even complain of lower back pain during period. Some women may only experience mild discomfort, while others may have more intense and excruciating lower back pain. Hormonal changes during menstruation are often blamed for all the pain during periods. But is that the only reason? Read on to find out the causes of back pain during periods and how to get instant relief from it.
Causes of back pain during period
Pain during periods, also known as dysmenorrhea, is something that women commonly experience, says Dr Puja Sharma, Senior Consultant – Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Daffodils by Artemis New Delhi. This happens due to a combination of physiological factors associated to the menstrual cycle.
The following key factors contribute to pain in the lower back and pelvis when Aunt Flo visits.
1. Uterine contractions
While menstruating, the uterus contracts to shed its inner lining. These contractions can be intense and cause pain in the lower back as the uterine muscles work to expel menstrual blood.
Prostaglandins are hormone-like substances that are released during menstruation. High levels of prostaglandins can cause stronger uterine contractions, leading to excruciating back pain. They can also impact blood vessels, leading to reduced blood flow and oxygen supply to the surrounding muscles, causing extreme discomfort.
3. Hormonal changes
Variations in hormonal levels, especially estrogen and progesterone, can have an impact on pain and sensitivity. These hormonal fluctuations can make women more prone to experiencing back pain during their periods.
The presence of blood and tissue in the pelvic region can trigger body’s inflammatory response, causing discomfort that may get transmitted to the back.
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Emotional stress and tension can aggravate physical discomfort, like back pain. Many women experience increased stress levels before and during their periods, which can worsen the perception of pain.
Symptoms of dysmenorrhea
Dysmenorrhea is characterised by many symptoms that primarily affect the lower back and pelvis. These symptoms can vary in intensity and duration but generally coincide with a woman’s menstrual cycle, says Dr Sharma. Here’s what you may experience.
1. Lower back pain
The most common symptom of dysmenorrhea is a dull, aching or cramping pain in the lower back, often described as a heavy or throbbing sensation. This pain is typically felt on one or both sides of the lower back.
2. Pelvic pain
Many women experience pelvic pain or cramps which can radiate from the lower abdomen into the lower back, says the expert.
3. Abdominal cramps
Period back pain may be accompanied by abdominal cramps, which can vary in intensity and are caused by uterine contractions.
4. Leg pain
Some women may also experience pain in the legs, thighs or groin area which is called referred pain. It can be related to the uterus’s close proximity to nerves that also serve the legs.
5. Gastrointestinal symptoms
Dysmenorrhea can be associated with gastrointestinal symptoms like diarrhea, nausea or vomiting, further contributing to discomfort.
6. Headaches and exhaustion
Hormonal fluctuations during menstruation can cause other symptoms like headaches and fatigue, which can amplify the overall discomfort.
7. Mood swings
Some women may experience mood swings, irritability or increased emotional sensitivity during their periods, which can aggravate the perception of pain.
Back pain during periods and underlying conditions
Dysmenorrhea is a normal part of the menstrual cycle, but in some cases, it can indicate an underlying medical condition.
Endometriosis is a chronic condition in which tissue similar to the uterine lining grows outside the uterus. It can lead to severe pelvic pain, including back pain, during menstruation. The pain tends to worsen over time and may be accompanied by other symptoms like heavy periods and pain during sex.
Uterine fibroids are non-cancerous growths of the uterus that can lead to heavy menstrual bleeding, pelvic pressure and back pain. The location and size of fibroids also influences the severity of symptoms.
Adenomyosis occurs when the tissue lining the uterus grows into the uterine walls, causing pain, heavy bleeding, and back discomfort, typically during period.
4. Pelvic Inflammatory Disease
It is an infection of the reproductive organs that can cause pelvic and back pain, especially during menstruation. Other symptoms are fever, vaginal discharge and pain during sex.
5. Cervical stenosis
In some cases, a narrow cervix can hinder menstrual blood flow, resulting in increased pressure and back pain, says Dr Sharma.
Ways to deal with back pain during periods
You can try out effective strategies to help in managing and alleviating the discomfort.
1. Heat therapy
Applying heat to the lower back can help in relaxing tense muscles and alleviate pain. For heat therapy, you can use a hot water bottle, heating pad or take a warm bath. Heat increases blood flow to the region, reducing muscle cramps and discomfort.
2. Over-the-counter pain relief
Non-prescription pain relievers can be helpful in reducing period back pain. These medications work by reducing inflammation and blocking pain signals, says the expert. It’s important to follow the recommended dosages and consult a doctor if you have any medical conditions or are on other medications.
3. Regular physical activity
Regular physical activity such as gentle stretching and yoga can help in alleviating period back pain. These activities improve blood circulation, release natural pain relievers endorphins, and reduce muscle tension. Being physically active on a regular basis, can provide long-term benefits.
4. Balanced diet
Some dietary modifications may help in managing period back pain. Consuming foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids and magnesium can help in reducing inflammation and muscle cramps. Reducing caffeine and salt intake may also help in minimising the discomfort.
5. Stress management
Emotional stress can make period back pain worse. Practices like deep breathing, meditation and mindfulness can help in relaxing the body and reduce stress-related muscle tension. Indulging in stress-reduction techniques on daily basis, especially during your periods, can be beneficial.
If these tips don’t help, there might be an underlying condition.