Menstrual Cramps and Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) Medication Guide
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.
William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.
- Menstrual cramps and PMS medication facts
- What are menstrual cramps?
- What is the treatment for common menstrual cramps (primary dysmenorrhea)?
- What is premenstrual syndrome (PMS)?
- What treatments are available for PMS?
- What medications are used to treat PMS?
- What are some guidelines for the safe use of OTC products for menstrual cramps and PMS?
- Find a local Obstetrician-Gynecologist in your town
Menstrual cramps and PMS medication facts
- Menstrual cramps that occur in the absence of a known abnormality or cause are medically referred to as primary dysmenorrhea.
- Non-drug treatments for menstrual cramps include adequate rest and sleep, regular exercise (especially walking), and smoking cessation.
- Menstrual cramps are not the same as the symptoms experienced due to premenstrual syndrome (PMS), although the symptoms of both disorders can sometimes be experienced together.
- Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) is a combination of emotional, physical, psychological, and mood disturbances that occur after a woman's ovulation; and usually end with the onset of her menstrual flow.
- For moderate menstrual cramps, the nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs, such as ibuprofen [Advil, Motrin, Nuprin, etc.] or naproxen [Aleve, Anaprox, Naprosyn, Naprelan]) are often helpful. The NSAIDs are more effective than aspirin in inhibiting the production and action of the prostaglandins that cause menstrual cramps.
What are menstrual cramps?
Menstrual cramps are abdominal and pelvic pains experienced by a woman around the time of her menstrual period. Menstrual cramps usually start shortly before the menstrual period, peak within 24 hours after their onset, and subside after a day or two.
Menstrual cramps can range from mild to severe. Mild menstrual cramps may be barely noticeable and short-lived, and they are sometimes felt only as a sense of mild pressure in the abdomen and pelvis. Severe menstrual cramps can be so painful that they interfere with a woman's regular activities for several days. The discomfort can extend to the lower back or legs. Menstrual cramps are not the same as the symptoms experienced due to premenstrual syndrome (PMS), although the symptoms of both disorders can sometimes be experienced together. Many women suffer from both PMS and menstrual cramps.
Medical research of menstrual cramps has shown that they are often worse in women who began menstruating early and who have long menstrual periods with heavy menstrual flow. Smoking and a family history of severe menstrual cramps are also associated with severe dysmenorrhea.
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