Whether you’re on your first period or No. 301, there’s no getting around the fact that PMS (premenstrual syndrome), with its myriad unpleasant symptoms, is an absolute pain to deal with every month. While every person is different, PMS symptoms generally occur during the week before your period and begin to ease off around the second day after your period starts. During this time, you may experience symptoms like bloating, irritability, cravings, headaches, trouble sleeping, and the dreaded discomfort — the latter of which could have you tossing and turning, trying to find the best positions to help period cramps.
Period cramps happen when your uterus contracts to shed its uterine lining, which in turn compresses the blood vessels in your uterus, per the UK’s NHS. That compression temporarily cuts off the blood and oxygen supply to the uterus, and your uterus responds by releasing chemicals that cause pain. Sounds fun, right? The end result of this chain reaction is you curling up on the couch in the fetal position wishing you could remember where you stashed the hot water bottle last month.
If the fetal position is one of your go-to PMS moves, congratulations! You have discovered one of the positions to help relieve period cramps. Yep, as wild as it may sound, certain positions can help ease discomfort during that time of the month. Whether you’re thinking about hitting the yoga mat, hoping to help alleviate your crampy tween or teen’s pain, or just trying to get a good night’s sleep (despite the hormone fluctuations, specter of leakage, and constant stabbing sensations), there are a few positions you can try out the next time those annoying PMS-fueled cramps set in.
How can you get rid of period cramps at night?
Cramps aren’t fun at any time of the day, but cramping is particularly frustrating at night when you’re just trying to get some sleep. Sadly, there’s no surefire fix to alleviate cramps, but there are a few sleeping positions more conducive to getting some rest than others. The next time you’re feeling crampy, try out one of the following positions at bedtime.
- The fetal position: As reported by avogel.com, sleeping on your side with your knees tucked to your chest may ease the pain of cramps. It reduces the pressure on your stomach and may also prevent leakage since your legs are pressed together. If this position is comfortable for you, then it really is a win-win.
- The recovery position: Used by emergency workers on patients while they’re waiting for help to arrive, the recovery position can also be one of the most comfortable sleeping positions to try out during your period. Try lying on your side with your bottom leg straight and your top leg bent near your stomach. Not only will this take some of the pressure off of your belly, but it also increases oxygen flow, which makes for a better night’s sleep overall.
- Lying on your back: Again, sleeping on your back takes some of the pressure off of your stomach. But the downside to this position is that it may increase the likelihood of leakage during the night.
The one position you should avoid sleeping in during your period is on your belly. Sorry, belly sleepers, but the pressure on your stomach is likely to cause your cramps to worsen, and leaking is also a major issue to take into consideration. With that in mind, if you can get comfortable on your side or back, then you could be in for a much better night’s sleep than you usually get when cramps strike.
What yoga positions help relieve period cramps?
Sleeping positions aren’t the only positions that can help alleviate period cramps; yoga can work wonders, too. Exercise, in general, is said to help some people with PMS symptoms — although it is totally understandable if you don’t feel like hitting the gym when your stomach is cramping and you’re already exhausted. That’s where yoga comes in. Doing a few gentle stretches feels a lot more manageable than running or partaking in some other strenuous activity. Plus, if your child is the one struggling with period cramps, you’ll probably have an easier time coaxing them to do a little yoga than you would convincing them to do some cardio.
According to Moreland OB/GYN, there are several yoga poses that could provide some relief from cramps. The one thing that each of these positions has in common is a focus on the stomach and back muscles. By targeting the areas that hurt the most when the cramping starts, you may be able to increase oxygen and blood flow while also relaxing your muscles.
The following yoga positions are suitable for beginners, but as with any exercise, take things slow and never force your body to do something that causes you pain. In most cases, you can modify these positions by using yoga blocks or pillows to reduce strain on your knees and back.
- Cat-Cow: Cat-Cow is a soothing yoga position that also involves a bit of animal roleplay. Start by getting on your hands and knees, ensuring you center your knees with your hips, and your arms with your shoulders. As you breathe in, stretch your head upwards and drop your stomach — this is the cow position. Then slowly exhale as you raise your belly upwards and your head downwards into the cat pose. Repeat this process 5-20 times.
- Child’s Pose: Start with your knees on the floor, and then bend forward as far as you can go without feeling uncomfortable. Ideally, your head will touch the mat as your arms stretch out in front of you, but if that’s not possible, you can place a pillow underneath your stomach to make this position more comfortable. As you sit in the child’s pose, slowly breathe in and out to release tension and loosen your muscles.
- Corpse Pose: This one is exactly how it sounds. Lie down on your back with your hands facing up at your sides. From there, concentrate on relaxing each part of your body one at a time while slowly breathing in and out.
What are some other ways to relieve period cramps?
Realistically, most of us can’t rely on yoga or sleeping positions to help ease the pain of period cramps throughout a normal day. If you’re looking for other ways to make yourself more comfortable when you’re PMS-ing — or to pass along to your tween or teen — try one of the following:
- Take an over-the-counter pain reliever like ibuprofen or aspirin.
- Apply a heating pad to your stomach or back.
- Soak in a warm bath.
- Massage your stomach with essential oils like lavender or cinnamon.
- Drink plenty of water.
- Avoid salty snacks and caffeine.
If your cramping ever feels more severe than what you’re used to on your period, or PMS symptoms are interfering with your day-to-day life, it could be a good idea to make an appointment with your doctor. Otherwise, try these positions and home remedies the next time period cramps come along to… well, cramp your style (we’re so sorry).
What foods make cramps worse?
Cramps are bad enough, so avoid eating any snacks that may amplify your discomfort. Here’s a list of foods to avoid.
- Canned foods are super high in salt and can lead to more bloating and cramping.
- Although sweets may be at the top of your cravings list, cut out the candy. Artificial sugar makes cramps worse.
- Fried foods can upset your stomach, so it’s best to steer clear of them while you’re cramping.
How long should cramps last?
Everyone is different, so there isn’t really a specific day when your cramps should end. Some people feel cramping a week before their period, while others experience discomfort during the first two to three days of their menstruation. As you reach the end of your period, the pain may decrease. But, if your cramps are excruciating, or super heavy and last a bit longer than three days, contact your doctor.
Why are menstrual cramps worse at night?
If you find your period is especially painful in the evenings, you’re not alone. Your menstrual cramps may feel worse at night because the hustle and bustle part of your day has come to an end. So, you’re less distracted by your daytime activities and more aware of your pain. Our busy days usually help divert most of our attention away from our discomfort.
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