- Aches & Pains
CBD for Menstrual Cramps [Any Help?]
As a woman, your menstrual cycle can affect every part of your life. It can bring mood swings, acne, PMS, and menstrual cramps, all of which can impact your quality of life, even if only for a few days a month. Research suggests that up to 90% of reproductive-age women experience painful periods, and it can completely derail your daily life. But there is a potential natural remedy: CBD for menstrual cramps.
These days, you can’t seem to do a Google search on pain without finding an article that talks about CBD for pain management. CBD has vast amounts of anecdotal evidence of pain relief – including when it comes to period pains.
Research suggests that CBD could be helpful in treating conditions that stem from inflammation. This explains why CBD for cramps may be effective.
What to Know About Menstrual Cramps
Menstrual cramps are sensations of pain that affect many women before and during their menstrual cycle. Also known as dysmenorrhea (the medical term) and period pains, symptoms range from being dull and annoying to severe and extreme.
Menstrual pain usually begins after ovulation when the ovaries release an egg and it moves down the fallopian tubes.
Pain that is only linked to the process of menstruation is known as primary dysmenorrhea. However, if the period cramps occur due to an identifiable medical problem like endometriosis, pelvic inflammatory disease, or fibroids, it’s called secondary dysmenorrhea.
Most people first experience period cramps about six months to a year after having their first period. Initially, they may come and go and eventually occur in all or most cycles as ovulation happens more frequently.
Menstrual Cramps Symptoms
Typical period cramps symptoms are dull, throbbing pain in the lower abdomen, right above the pelvic bone. Other symptoms may include:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Pain in the thighs and lower back
- Dizziness and faintness
- Diarrhea or loose stools
Most people experience period pains in the lower abdomen and lower back. It normally starts 1 to 2 days before menstruation and lasts between 2 to 4 days. If symptoms start over the age of 25 or seem to get progressively worse, it’s recommended that you see a doctor.
Severe menstruation symptoms, like extreme pain, are more likely if you have endometriosis, irregular pelvic inflammation, or non-cancerous growths because swelling and obstructions make it a lot harder for the lining to shed.
What Causes Menstrual Cramps?
Menstrual cramps are the result of contractions in the uterus. Basically, the muscles clench and retract in an effort to shed the uterine lining more efficiently. This clenching is what causes the abdominal pain that many women experience during their periods.
In the weeks leading up to menstruation, estrogen levels increase, and the uterus tissue builds up. Then, menstruation starts and the uterus contracts to shed its lining – this is one of the main causes of menstrual pain.
Contractions in the uterine muscle are triggered by prostaglandins – a hormone-like substance that is also essential for the contractions in the uterus that take place during labor. Prostaglandins also help with inflammatory signaling and constrict blood vessels around the uterus to help prepare for birth.
Unfortunately, the uterus doesn’t seem to differentiate between the uterine lining and a baby – hence the monthly suffering. Many professionals believe higher levels of prostaglandins cause more intense menstrual cramps.
Essentially, primary dysmenorrhea is the result of intense contractions in the uterus triggered by prostaglandins. However, menstrual cramp causes linked to secondary dysmenorrhea include the following:
- Uterine fibroid or ovarian cyst
- Uterine infections
- Endometriosis (inflammation of the uterine lining)
- Intrauterine device (IUD)
- Tissue and blood passing through a narrow cervix
Menstrual Cramps Treatment
Many people use over-the-counter medication to tackle the pain in most cases of period cramps. Anti-prostaglandins minimize cramping in the uterus, relieve discomfort, and lighten the flow of blood.
Medication for menstrual cramps may also contain painkillers, such as naproxen and ibuprofen. These are both types of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).
There are also certain vitamins for menstrual cramps, which may be effective. For instance, vitamin D helps the body use calcium and may reduce inflammation, while some studies suggest that vitamin E may help to reduce menstrual pain.
Acupressure for menstrual cramps is also an option. Research suggests that women treated with acupuncture experience less pain and require less medication.
Natural Menstrual Cramp Treatments
- Magnesium: Women who take magnesium supplements during their menstrual cycle have reduced inflammatory prostaglandin levels and reduced pain. Do you find yourself craving chocolate around this time of the month? That’s because chocolate is high in magnesium. Lentils and avocados are healthier alternatives.
- Apply Heat: Hot water bottles can offer some much-needed relief from menstrual cramps – and they often work faster than NSAIDs. Heat increases blood flow to the area, which helps to soothe overworked muscles and delivers oxygen to oxygen-deprived tissues. Some scientists believe that heat desensitizes the very same pain receptors that CBD works on.
- Ginger: Drinking ginger tea for menstrual cramps can be very effective. Several studies have found that using ginger for menstrual cramps can reduce the severity of pain. Ginger can also relieve the severity of other symptoms like nausea and vomiting.
- Fish Oil: Multiple studies have reported that daily fish oil supplements can decrease pain and one’s reliance on NSAIDs during periods. This is because prostaglandins are synthesized from omega fatty acids, and diets that are high in omega-3 fatty acids could move your body away from producing inflammatory prostaglandins.
- Take a Warm Bath: The warm bath water helps the muscles in the uterus to relax, thus increasing blood flow and easing pain. Simply add a few drops of CBD oil to a bath bomb or use some CBD bath soaks.
CBD and Menstrual Cramps
There aren’t any specific studies on CBD for menstrual cramps. But plenty of studies are available on CBD for pain in general. This means that it has the potential to relieve pain that you feel around your time of the month.
Many believe that CBD has anti-inflammatory properties. This could be beneficial for a variety of female issues, including menstrual cramps.
CBD is thought to support the endocannabinoid system (ECS), an internal network of receptors and chemical components that help the body to maintain homeostasis when faced with environmental stressors.
Although we’re still learning a lot about the ECS, research suggests that if an individual’s hormones are imbalanced, it can have a negative impact on their levels of natural endocannabinoid molecules. This is where CBD springs into action. Cannabinoids, like CBD, support the ECS by minimizing the breakdown of our own endocannabinoids.
This can lead to the positive benefits that we experience when stimulating our cannabinoid receptors, from reduced inflammation to pain relief to improved mood – all of which could improve our overall menstrual cycle experience.
Does CBD Help with Menstrual Cramps
But what does all this mean? Is CBD for menstrual cramps really effective? Well, we cannot say that you will definitely experience pain relief when using CBD for menstrual cramps. However, research seems to suggest that you very well could.
One particular study, published in The European Journal of Pain in 2015, is especially compelling. Much of the pain that you experience during menstruation is the result of inflammation. Prostaglandin, which gets released after ovulation and just before your period begins, is an inflammatory chemical that contracts muscles in the uterus, resulting in cramps. As we’ve already mentioned, women with higher levels of prostaglandin tend to have more painful contractions.
According to another study, published in The Global Library of Women’s Medicine in 2008, if CBD helps to reduce inflammation and inflammation is known to cause cramps, logic would suggest that CBD has the potential to reduce menstrual cramps.
Recently, scientists determined that CBD (similar to NSAIDs) inhibits the prostaglandin-producing enzyme. But, unlike NSAIDs, CBD preferentially inhibits COX-2 over COX-1, meaning the anti-inflammatory benefits come without the gastrointestinal side effects that are linked to NSAIDs.
What about topical CBD for menstrual cramps? There are several products on the market that claim to use CBD to help ease pain from the outside in. CBD creams may help to relieve cramps when applied to the abdomen area. However, we’re not sure that these cooling sensations will be all that different from other topical pain-relief products.
Summary on CBD for Menstrual Cramps
Many women are surprised and shocked to experience how effective CBD for menstrual cramps can be. But the research is quite clear – CBD appears to target the cause, inflammatory prostaglandins, while also relieving the symptoms.
However, we’re only just starting to understand the capabilities of CBD, and with no clinical research on the topical, it’s impossible to say that CBD will definitely help to relieve menstrual pains. It’s an exciting new area of science, but at this moment, anecdotal evidence is all we have on using CBD oil for menstrual cramps.
What we can say is that gone are the days of having to lay on your couch, helplessly doubled over in pain. You may just find that CBD is the perfect remedy for dealing with menstrual cramps. Or it may be a great addition to other natural remedies that you use to deal with period pains, like taking a hot bath.