Period pains

Period pains

Dysmenorrhea, or commonly known as menstrual or period pain, is the most common menstrual symptom among adolescent girls and young women. Unfortunately, it is often not recognized by patients nor doctors; hence it is not treated.

This condition is extremely common. Most teenagers that suffer from period pains suffer from what is called primary dysmenorrhea, which means they have painful menstruation without any pelvic disease.

Why are there periods painful?

Menstrual pain usually starts 6 to 24 months after girls get their first period, called menarche. The pain is known to happen because of an overproduction of prostaglandin, a hormone that increases the movement of the uterus, therefore generating pain.


Most teens refer to a classic pattern of pain and discomfort, like cramps, in the lower abdomen, usually days before their periods start and during menstruation. The pain can be so intense that it extends to the back and sometimes the thighs.

Patients can present systemic symptoms such as diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting. When manifestations get to this degree, most doctors and even patients don’t believe it’s all because menstrual pain and try to look for other underlying causes, when in reality, it is just painful periods that get very severe.


Missing the diagnosis for period pains may result in young girls and women missing school or work because they don’t get the proper treatment. A doctor must ask all the necessary questions to get a detailed patient and family history. If you need to ask for your symptoms, don’t hesitate to enter VirtualMD, and a professional will assist you.

Generally, a pelvic examination is not necessary unless there is suspicion of secondary dysmenorrhea, which is painful periods due to a pelvic disease, such as endometriosis. This diagnosis will require further evaluation and different treatment.

Secondary dysmenorrhea

As mentioned before, this cause of period pains is less common but still very present in everyday women’s lives. What patients refer is progressively increasing pain every time since menarche.

The pain may occur outside the menstrual cycle or when the person is not bleeding, and it is not relieved with typical pain killers. Also, for these patients, it is common to have a family history of secondary dysmenorrhea, like endometriosis, associated with the diagnosis.


Once a patient meets the criteria for period pains, treatment must be started. The first choice for primary dysmenorrhea is nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen because they will interrupt the production of prostaglandins.

What’s recommended is to take the pain reliever drug even two days before the onset of menses, and maintain low doses of it on a scheduled basis through the first days of bleeding.

There are cases in which some women might not respond to therapy with NSAIDs, and hormonal medication could be prescribed. This should always be done under supervision by a healthcare provider.

For more information or questions on this condition, feel free to call us at 1-800-594-0537, and a doctor will be glad to help you.