From Our Pelvic Floor Specialist: 5 Stretches to Reduce Menstrual Cramps

For those of us who experience that not-so-friendly monthly visitor, there is one symptom that seems to trump the fatigue, bloating, headaches, and gastrointestinal upset: menstrual cramps.

Many of us reach for a couple Midol, Tylenol, or Ibuprofen to get us through the worst of it, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. This article is simply to share alternative ways of reducing menstrual cramps and other period related pain.

●     HEAT This is not a secret remedy, most of us are quite aware of how comforting curling up with a heating pad can be during those initial days of cramping. What you may not know though is you can take some heat with you by purchasing some stick on disposable hot packs from your local drug store*. It is a great strategy for dulling the pain when you unfortunately still have to do things. You simply follow the instructions and stick it to the inside of your pants along your lower abdomen. It is totally discrete and, well, it is just plain lovely. For those with back pain, there is a special low back hot patches as well. Please exercise caution if you have sensation issues or if you do not tolerate heat well.

●     EXERCISE Most women who suffer from menstrual cramps are not up for an extreme workout session during this time. However, a brisk walk or some light strength training is not only a great way to elevate your mood a bit, but you can get the added benefit of an exercise-related endorphin release, your body’s natural painkiller.

●     PAY ATTENTION TO YOUR PRODUCTS Some women find that using tampons during their period increases their cramping or discomfort. Others have reported sensitivity to some of the chemicals present in traditional tampons in pads. If you feel you may fit into this category, perhaps you would benefit from switching to all natural feminine products Look for items that are chlorine and fragrance free. Another alternative that is gaining steam is underwear specifically for your period that holds up to two tampons worth (see shethinx.com).

●     STRETCHES Not only can a period cause uterine cramping, but often women suffer from low back pain and groin pain during this time as well. Below are a few of my personal favorite stretches for easing this discomfort.     

 #1 Deep Squat: Bring your legs wide and drop your rear-end to the floor. Work within a range that is comfortable for you. Use supports as necessary and try to keep a nice straight spine and open chest. Hold 1-3 mins.

#1 Deep Squat: Bring your legs wide and drop your rear-end to the floor. Work within a range that is comfortable for you. Use supports as necessary and try to keep a nice straight spine and open chest. Hold 1-3 mins.

 #2 Happy Baby: In a supine position, bring your hands to the outside of your feet and turn the soles of your feet to the ceiling. Allow the structures around your pelvis as well as your pelvic floor stretch and relax. Hold 1-3 mins.

#2 Happy Baby: In a supine position, bring your hands to the outside of your feet and turn the soles of your feet to the ceiling. Allow the structures around your pelvis as well as your pelvic floor stretch and relax. Hold 1-3 mins.

 #3 Baby Cobra: Lying face down gently press into your hands and forearms to lift your chest. Feel a nice stretch in your abdomen as you breathe deeply. If your back feels bothered by this, decrease the amount of extension in your spine. Hold 5-10 seconds and repeat 10 times.

#3 Baby Cobra: Lying face down gently press into your hands and forearms to lift your chest. Feel a nice stretch in your abdomen as you breathe deeply. If your back feels bothered by this, decrease the amount of extension in your spine. Hold 5-10 seconds and repeat 10 times.

 #4 Glut/Piriformis Stretch: Cross one leg over the other in a figure-4 pattern, “thread the needle” and grab your other leg and hug it to your chest. Hold 1 minute each side.

#4 Glut/Piriformis Stretch: Cross one leg over the other in a figure-4 pattern, “thread the needle” and grab your other leg and hug it to your chest. Hold 1 minute each side.

 #5 Thoracic Rotations: Start in sidelying with your arms extended in a prayer position. Rotate your top hand toward the opposite side, following it with your gaze. Inhale deeply as you do this and feel the front of your body opening. Repeat 10 times on each side.

#5 Thoracic Rotations: Start in sidelying with your arms extended in a prayer position. Rotate your top hand toward the opposite side, following it with your gaze. Inhale deeply as you do this and feel the front of your body opening. Repeat 10 times on each side.

It is important to note that certain medical conditions such as Endometriosis can contribute to increased pain and bleeding during menstruation. If you feel your symptoms are abnormal or particularly severe, please discuss this with your gynecologist or primary care physician so that you can be properly diagnosed and treated.