During your menstrual period, your uterus contracts to help expel its lining. Hormone-like substances (prostaglandins) involved in pain and inflammation trigger the uterine muscle contractions. Higher levels of prostaglandins are associated with more-severe menstrual cramps.
Severe contractions may constrict the blood vessels feeding the uterus. The resulting pain can be compared to the chest pain that occurs when blocked blood vessels starve portions of the heart of food and oxygen.
Menstrual cramps may also be caused by:
May. 08, 2014
- Endometriosis. In this painful condition, the tissue that lines your uterus becomes implanted outside your uterus, most commonly on your fallopian tubes, ovaries or the tissue lining your pelvis.
- Uterine fibroids. These noncancerous growths in the wall of the uterus may be the cause of pain.
- Adenomyosis. In this condition, the tissue that lines your uterus begins to grow into the muscular walls of the uterus.
- Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). This infection of the female reproductive organs is usually caused by sexually transmitted bacteria.
- Cervical stenosis. In some women, the opening of the cervix may be so small that it impedes menstrual flow, causing a painful increase of pressure within the uterus.
- Smith RP, et al. Primary dysmenorrhea in adult women: Clinical features and diagnosis. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Jan. 15, 2014.
- Dysmenorrhea. The Merck Manuals: The Merck Manual for Health Care Professionals. http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/gynecology_and_obstetrics/menstrual_abnormalities/dysmenorrhea.html#v1062408. Accessed Jan. 17, 2014.
- Smith RP, et al. Treatment of primary dysmenorrhea in adult women. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Jan. 15. 2014.
- Cunningham FG, et al. Williams Obstetrics. 23rd ed. New York, N.Y.: The McGraw-Hill Companies; 2010. http://www.accessmedicine.com/resourceTOC.aspx?resourceID=46. Accessed Jan. 15, 2014.
- South-Paul JE, et al. Current Diagnosis & Treatment in Family Medicine. 3rd ed. New York, N.Y.: The McGraw-Hill Companies; 2011. http://www.accessmedicine.com/resourceTOC.aspx?resourceID=52. Accessed Jan. 15, 2014.
- Rigi SN, et al. Comparing the analgesic effect of heat patch containing iron chip and ibuprofen for primary dysmenorrhea: A randomized controlled trial. BMC Women's Health. 2012:12:25.
- Dieltjens T. Towards evidence-based emergency medicine: Best BETs from the Manchester Royal Infirmary. Emergency Medicine Journal. 2012;29:853.
- Rahbar N, et al. Effect of omega-3 fatty acids on intensity of primary dysmenorrhea. International Journal of Gynaecology and Obstetrics. 2012;117:45.
- Rakel D. Integrative Medicine. 3rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Saunders Elsevier; 2012. http://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed Jan. 15, 2014.
- Ju H, et al. The prevalence and risk factors of dysmenorrhea. Epidemiologic Reviews. In Press. Accessed Jan. 15, 2014.
- Smith CA, et al. Acupuncture for dysmenorrhoea. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/14651858.CD007854.pub2/abstract. Accessed Jan. 15, 2014.
- Khan KS, et al. How effective are non-drug, non-surgical treatments for primary dysmenorrhoea? BMJ. 2012;344:e3011.
- Jiang HR, et al. Systematic review of randomized clinical trials of acupressure therapy for primary dysmenorrhea. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. 2013;169692:1. http://www.hindawi.com/journals/ecam/2013/169692/. Accessed Jan. 15, 2014.
You Are ... The Campaign for Mayo Clinic
Mayo Clinic is a not-for-profit organization. Make a difference today.