Sometimes we overlook the simple ways to solve common problems, and it would appear that managing period pain is no exception.
To understand why simple is best, let’s review what the cause is of period pain (known medically as dysmenorrhoea).
Each month, nature prepares your body for pregnancy by thickening the lining of your uterus in readiness for ‘housing’ a fertilised egg. If the egg isn’t fertilised (you don’t fall pregnant), the thickened lining of the uterus starts to break down and is expelled, along with some blood. Next month, the process starts all over until you’re post-menopausal.
To help expel the lining that’s no longer needed, the muscles in the uterus contract, after being stimulated to do so by natural hormone-like chemicals in the body called prostaglandins. It’s the contractions that cause the pain. On the first day of your period, prostaglandins levels are high. As bleeding continues and the lining of the uterus is shed, the level goes down, which is why pain tends to lessen after the first few days.
Prostaglandins also cause the blood vessels of the uterus to contract, reducing blood flow to the area.1,2
All of these interactions lead to muscle tension, inflammation, fluid retention, and of course, pain.
Women looking for a natural way to control period pain have long relied on the good old hot water bottle. But does heat actually help?
Research suggests that it certainly does. One review of several studies had the following to say:
For women with dysmenorrhea, the application of local heat can reduce muscle tension and relax abdominal muscles to reduce pain caused by muscle spasms. Heat can also increase pelvic blood circulation to eliminate local blood and body fluid retention and diminish congestion and swelling, thereby enabling a reduction in pain caused by nerve compression.3
In fact, when the authors compared doing nothing (placebo) with heat, they concluded that there “was a consistent reduction in menstrual pain.” They also noted that there “was also a trend towards a reduction in menstrual pain with heat therapy compared with analgesic (pain killer) drugs.”3
In another study, Dr Michael Zinger (department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, University of Cincinnati) tested the benefits of heat in a small group of period pain patients over four hours. The percent reduction in pain compared with the start of treatment was 27% at the first hour, 43% at the second hour, and 79% at the end of the fourth hour.4
So, it appears that something as simple and safe as applying heat to the lower abdomen or lower back will provide relief. But a hot water bottle is not the most convenient or discreet way to apply the warmth. Fortunately, there are some great, very discreet options in the form of heat pads, such as Hotteeze.
Hotteeze Heat Pads come in a convenient pack. You simply remove from the outer wrapping, peel off the backing and stick the pad to any part of the body (over your undergarment). The pad will heat up gradually and become warm in just 10 minutes and last for up to 14 hours. (Shop Hotteeze here)