The woman body undergoes a process referred to as the menstrual cycle. It occurs once every 21-35 days. The menstruation period usually lasts for 2-7 days. Many women suffer frequent and severe pain during the period, which is called dysmenorrhea. Period pains vary from mild annoyance to severe pain that could affect the normal activities. The condition can start from the first period and last the entire life or start later in life because of certain medical conditions. The pain usually happens in the lower abdominal area; but in some cases, pain in the legs can also occur.
What Causes Leg Pain During Period?
The pain is caused by contractions of the uterine during periods. The pelvic region is made up of a network of nerves and when pain develops at one point, it may radiate to other neighboring regions, such as upper legs and lower back. This is the main reason why pain on the leg is associated with menstruation.
Some women develop leg cramps or muscle contractions during periods due to a reduction in the level of minerals. During periods, there is a significant loss of blood and this causes loss of iron and other essential minerals such as magnesium and potassium. Depletion of essential minerals causes irritability on the skeletal muscles located on the lower limbs and the calf area, leading to painful muscle spasms. Leg cramps may also occur when there is physical exertion or dehydration.
In some cases, pain in the legs may be a sign of underlying health conditions. If a woman experiences severe leg pain during period, then it is recommended that she should consult a gynecologist to rule out the medical problems.
- Endometriosis – The endometrial tissues located on the inner lining of the uterus grow outside the uterine cavity. This is the main cause of heavy and painful periods. Pain in the leg during menstruation is associated with sciatic, uterosacral and cystic ovarian endometriosis.
- Uterine fibroids – These are benign tumors which grow inside the uterus. While tiny fibroids may not cause any symptoms, large ones might cause a pressure exertion on the nerves, therefore causing radiation of pain to the back and the legs. This pain may increase during periods and it may develop during other times too.
- Other causes – Dysmenorrhea associated with pain in the leg can be caused by adenomyosis, abnormal pregnancy, ovarian cysts, iron deficiency, use of intrauterine device, an infection of the reproductive organ among others.
What to Do with Leg Pain During Period
There are natural remedies for menstrual leg pain, including:
- Take at least eight glasses of water every day. Water reduces chances of dehydration. Fruit juices and coconut water can also be taken during menstruation because they supply essential nutrients and minerals lost during the periods.
- Eat bananas. Taking bananas during this period will improve the levels of calcium and potassium. Bananas aid in replenishing the electrolyte balance and taking one a day will help in preventing cramping.
- Increase iron intake. If you are anemic, it is essential to consume an iron rich diet, which will help counter the effects of leg and menstrual cramps. Based on the physician’s advice, take vitamin, iron and calcium supplements to boost the mineral content.
- Drink fenugreek seeds tea. You can boil a teaspoonful of fenugreek seeds in two cups of water. Allow the seeds to soak throughout the night and then strain the liquid in the morning before you drink. You can alternate the days that you drink the liquid and it will help reduce leg and menstrual cramps.
- Drink ginger tea. Consumed with lemon juice or honey, ginger tea can help relieve menstrual leg cramps. Ginger is rich in antioxidants; it improves circulation and relieves pain.
- Drink chamomile tea. Chamomile causes the relaxation of the muscles, relieving leg and menstrual cramps.
- Have hot massage. It works well to relieve pains and aches during menstruation.
- Elevate the legs. For cases of menstrual cramps, keep the legs in an elevated position when lying down on the bed. This will improve circulation and relieve muscle cramps.
- Take medications. Medications can be used to relieve menstrual pain if it is too severe. It is essential that you consult your doctor and find out if there is an underlying problem.
How to Treat Dysmenorrhea
Besides the methods to relieve leg pain during period, here are more ways to treat dysmenorrhea.
- Pain killing medications – You can take ibuprofen and aspirin to help relieve cramps. However, it is imperative to note that you cannot take aspirin or ibuprofen if you have liver, kidney, stomach problems or you are asthmatic. You can try paracetamol although studies have shown that it does not effectively reduce pain. If the ordinary painkillers do not alleviate pain then the doctor may prescribe a stronger painkiller such as codeine or naproxen.
- Combined oral contraceptives – The doctor may inform you to try combined oral contraceptive pills because they help in thinning the womb and reduce the amount of prostaglandin the body releases. A thinner womb lining means the womb muscles don't have to contract too much, making menstruation less painful.
Sometimes surgery may be done if there are severe underlying conditions such as endometriosis and fibroids.
2. Home Remedies
- Stop smoking – Smoking increases the risk of severe pains during menstruation.
- Be physically active – Being active during the period will help boost blood circulation and reduce the severity of the pain during the periods. Try gentle walking and cycling.
- Apply heat – Putting a hot water bottle or heat pad on your lower abdomen area will help reduce pain.
- Massage – Gentle massage on the lower abdomen will help relieve pain.
When to See a Doctor
You should your doctor if:
- The cramps continue longer than usual or they become more painful.
- The pain worsens than the previously experienced.
- Bleeding is excess and it may require more than one tampon or pad per hour.
- There are signs of infection such as chills, fever, and body aches.
- You suspect you are pregnant.
The doctor can help you manage most of the symptoms. However, it is imperative that you visit a hospital emergency department if any of the following happens:
- You faint.
- You experience dizziness when standing up.
- There is a sudden intense pelvic pain.
- Tissue is passed.