Menstrual cramps can be an unwelcome but unavoidable part of many women’s menstrual cycle, particularly at the beginning or end of menstruation. They are generally brought on by hormonal changes which cause muscles in the uterus to tighten and spasm. Some painkillers work to ease period cramps but there is no cure for them, so if you’re looking for relief, exercise might just help.
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An Overview of Menstrual Cramps
Menstrual cramps are sometimes known as dysmenorrhea, which is the medical term used to describe menstrual cramps. When painful cramps are experienced, women are able to cope with them through various methods. These methods may include hot water bottles, heating pads, painkillers, exercise and even taking a break from clothes for a few hours before starting menstruation.
Although the majority of women report that they have no trouble coping with their monthly period, it can be quite distressing for some.
Benefits of Exercising on your period
✓ Exercise increases the flow of blood to the uterus and pelvic region, which helps clear out any bacteria or old cells that may be causing an infection, leading to less discomfort.
✓ It provides relief from menstrual cramps and other discomforts associated with periods such as bloating and mood swings.
✓ The right type of exercise can also help you lose weight, which can both alleviate PMS symptoms and provide more relief from menstrual cramps.
✓ Regular exercise also increases the production of the hormone oxytocin, which helps your body regulate your period on a regular cycle.
✓ Exercise can be very effective in reducing PMS symptoms, particularly hyperactivity and mood swings.
✓ It’s also the best way to prevent endometriosis, which affects around 10% of women. Other benefits include clearer skin and better sleep.
8 Different Exercises for Period Cramps
In addition to a healthy diet and lots of water, exercise is a great way to boost your mood and combat the pain of menstrual cramps. It releases endorphins which can help alleviate pain and encourage relaxation. Plus, you’ll feel better once you start exercising, which will make it easier to take on the next day’s challenges.
The cobra pose is very effective in relieving menstrual cramps. This pose is performed by lying on the stomach, face down. The toes are then tucked towards the rear of the body. The upper part of the body is then raised, off the ground with hands holding the elbows. This position can be maintained for 30 seconds to 5 minutes. Breathe normally in this pose helps in relaxing the body.
Starting on hands and knees, breathe in deeply through the nose. As you exhale, round your spine like a happy baby, sinking your belly down towards or to the floor. This is cow pose.
Now reverse this motion by tilting your head back, curving the spine up like an angry crescent moon – this is cat pose. Slowly alternate between cow and cat poses for 10 repetitions each.
Lie down flat on your back with your feet apart. Bring the feet together. Place your hands with your palm turned down. Lift the chest up pushing the elbows into the ground and throw up the head back so as to touch the floor. The chest is in the same arched position. Breathe deeply. Try to remain in this position for 1 minute. To come out of the position lift the head and lower the upper body on the floor.
Fish pose is an inverted position which means that blood is drawn away from the abdomen and flows towards the head. This means that the uterus is not being stimulated and therefore cramps are reduced. In Fish Pose there is also a release of endorphins which help to regulate hormones and therefore can also reduce menstrual cramps.
Forward bends, or postures that require you to fold at the hips or bend your torso forward, are helpful for alleviating menstrual pain. They offer back support and can help release tension in the abdomen. You can try any of the following forward bends:
Tighten your abdominals (a) and shift your weight back (b). Keeping your abdominals contracted, move forward to a comfortable position. Hold for 30 seconds to one minute. Bend slightly more deeply into the position if it feels good. Repeat the exercise 2-3 more times, then come out of the pose slowly.
Lie on your back with your knees bent, feet flat on the floor about hip-width apart, and arms out to your sides, palms face down. Lift your hips up. If this is too challenging at first, place a pillow or two under your hips for support. Hold for five breaths or longer if you can hold the position without pain or discomfort.
This pose gently twists the thigh muscles on the right leg to relieve stomach pain related to period cramps or bloating. Bridge Pose can also reduce menstrual flow by providing relief from menstrual contractions.
Half Moon Pose
Start in a side lunge with the left foot forward. Place your right hand on the floor or ground, directly underneath your right shoulder. This will be your upper hand. The other hand is the lower hand, which you’ll place on top of your left thigh. The left palm should be facing up to the ceiling, fingers pointing towards the sky. Straighten both legs and try to balance on one leg for 30 seconds while breathing deeply. Repeat on the other side.
This pose is perfect if your lower back, hips, and outer thighs are getting too tight during menstruation. It also helps to balance out the flow of energy in your body. Holding Half Moon Pose for about 30 seconds while breathing deeply can help alleviate menstrual cycle pain around the perineum.
Head to Knee Pose
Sitting on the floor. Straighten one leg out in front of you, with your foot pointing forward. Place the soles of both feet on the ground. Lean forward and grab your ankle with your hands. Hold for 5 deep breaths, inhaling and exhaling slowly.
This is an invigorating exercise that can help to alleviate severe menstrual cramps. The action helps to simulate flow in the pelvic region, which will lessen pain associated with cramps and help to encourage blood flow to this area.
Wide Angle Seated Forward Bend
The Wide Angle Forward Bend stretches your hips, thighs, and low back with particular emphasis on the iliopsoas, the pair of muscles that runs up the front of your side and along your hip. It can be done with or without a yoga mat. For menstrual cramps, this is very good for relaxing the lower back and increasing circulation of the legs, which will alleviate cramps.
Begin seated with your legs and feet together and hands in front of you. If your hips are open, you can cross one ankle over the other. If your hips are tight, please keep both ankles straight. Slowly start to lean forward while letting your legs stack on top of each other (beginners: place a blanket under your sit bones) and shift your shoulders forward until they rest comfortably on top of your thighs. You may need to move more deeply into the posture to get the support from the ground that you need.
Next time you’re experiencing period cramps, or any other type of cramps for that matter, do not believe the old adage that states exercise is bad for you. In fact, many doctors encourage their patients to get a little exercise. The reason for this is that exercise helps to relieve tension in the muscles, which in turn reduces cramping. This works because when you exercise, your body sends blood to the muscle groups being used. The oxygen in the blood helps to flush out lactic acid buildup, which causes cramping.
Why is exercise so effective in helping to reduce the severity of period cramps?
Exercise is a proven therapeutic treatment for chronic diseases. In addition to the negative effects of high levels of stress, exercise decreases the levels of stress hormones, significantly reducing the likelihood of having a heart attack or stroke. Exercise also reduces the risk of getting diabetes and being overweight.
When should I start my period cramps exercises?
In fact, many people say that they have found relief from their period pains immediately after beginning a period exercise regimen. For others, it takes a few days to a week of exercising before you start to notice a difference. However, take advantage of the immediate results and begin exercising as soon as you recognize your menstrual cramps during the first few days of your cycle.
Can exercising hurt my ovaries or uterus during my period cramps?
You will not be triggering any major changes or damage if you exercise during your period. Although, in some cases, exercising when your period is going to start can cause pain.
After I’ve done exercises, should I stop them for a bit while I’m bleeding heavily?
Usually, because it is difficult to be completely sure of the timing of ovulation (or any other menstrual cycle changes such as menstruation changes or pregnancy), we advise that you keep your exercise program up and uninterrupted. However, in some cases, it may be beneficial to stop an exercise program during a period.
Is there any way to relieve period pain without exercising at all?
Low-impact exercise for preventing period pain is an excellent option. Exercise can be hard to tolerate at certain times of the month, but low-impact exercise is not only easier on your body, but it can be very effective in reducing period pain. With easy-to-follow instructions, you will begin to see improvements in your period pain immediately after you begin your exercise program.