Women’s Health – Dysmenorrhoea (Painful Periods)

Dysmenorrhoea, or painful periods, is common.  Debilitating, painful, cramping periods are one of the leading causes of female school and work absenteeism.  Dysmenorrhoea literally means “difficult monthly flow” and the characteristic pain is most acutely felt at the onset of menstruation, lasting for 1 – 2 days.  Symptoms of dysmenorrhoea include:

  • Moderate to severe cramping and abdominal/pelvic pain beginning with onset of period and lasting 8–72 hours
  • Low back and upper leg pain
  • Headache
  • Diarrhoea
  • Nausea/vomiting

Primary dysmenorrhoea is menstrual pain that is not associated with other pathology; whilst secondary dysmenorrhoea refers to pelvic pain related to underlying pathology and exacerbated by menstruation, such as endometriosis, uterine fibroids, adenomyosis, bladder inflammation, irritable bowel syndrome or chronic pelvic inflammatory disease.  Secondary dysmenorrhoea may be associated with:

  • Infertility
  • Heavy menstrual flow or irregular bleeding
  • Dyspareunia (painful sexual intercourse)
  • Vaginal discharge
  • Lower abdominal or pelvic pain at other times in the cycle

Note:  It is vital in dysmenorrhoea to determine if there is an underlying pathological cause of pain before proceeding with natural treatment recommendations.

Excessive oestrogen exposure throughout the menstrual cycle is thought to be a primary driver of dysmenorrhoea, as oestrogen stimulates excessive production of certain prostaglandins (PGs).  PGs are inflammatory mediators which vasoconstrict endometrial vessels and contract smooth muscle causing cramping and pain. 

Increased levels of inflammatory mediators may also be involved in dysmenorrhoea and studies on women with dysmenorrhoea have found elevated levels of these in the menstrual discharge of 10-30% of women with dysmenorrhoea who failed to respond to some anti-inflammatory therapy.  This finding correlated to abnormally high levels of white blood cell counts found in the menstruum of these women, indicating high levels of inflammatory activity. 

Primary dysmenorrhoea is associated with early onset of menstruation, never having delivered a baby (nulliparity), heavy or prolonged menstrual flow and a positive family history of dysmenorrhoea.  Some of the key drivers are stress, smoking and obesity.  There may also be an association with sexual abuse or chronic mood disorders, such as depression. 

Combining Western herbal medicine with Activated B Vitamins may be used for the management of painful and heavy menstrual flow.  Using herbal remedies to encourage a normal, healthy balance of oestrogen and progesterone in women, as well as having scientifically proven anti-inflammatory actions, may give effective relief in dysmenorrhoea.  Periods are not optional but pain and heavy bleeding is.  Talk to one of the dedicated Naturopaths at Nurtura Health to ask how you may get support and relief from what is often a debilitating condition. 




Watch this space for future posts on other conditions in more detail!

Disclaimer:  The advice on this website is of a general nature only and Nurtura Health expressly disclaims all liability arising out of the improper use of the information provided.  Nurtura Health actively discourages any self-diagnosis or self-medication.  Please consult your health practitioner regarding these important health issues.  All rights reserved.