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Period pain (dysmenorrhoea)

Period pain happens when your uterus muscles tighten (contract). Pain might include cramping and heaviness in the pelvic area, and pain in the lower back, stomach or legs.

Learn more about period pain, including what’s normal, the causes, what you can do and when to see your doctor.

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Period pain

Some people experience mild discomfort when they get their period. Others experience severe pain that stops them from doing everyday activities.

Period pain is more common in younger women.

Pain can include cramping and heaviness in the pelvic area, and pain in the lower back, stomach or legs. Some people also experience nausea, vomiting, paleness and diarrhoea.

Period pain is the most common cause of pelvic pain.

What is normal period pain?

Period pain is normal if:

  • it happens on the first two days of your period
  • it doesn’t impact your daily life
  • it goes away when you take pain-relief medicines, use hot or cold packs, or use TENS (a small device that blocks pain signals).

What causes period pain?

Period pain happens when higher levels of natural chemicals called ‘prostaglandins’ cause your uterus muscles to tighten.

Some health conditions can cause period pain. For example, endometriosis and adenomyosis.

What you can do

There are many ways to manage your period pain. You can try practical ways to reduce pain. For example:

  • take pain-relief medicine (e.g. ibuprofen) when the pain starts
  • use a heat pack or have a warm bath to help relax your muscles
  • do regular physical activity to release ‘feel-good’ hormones (endorphins)
  • try relaxation techniques (e.g. meditation) to relieve stress
  • try complementary therapies (e.g. acupuncture and naturopathy) or supplements (e.g. fish oil and magnesium).

You can also ask your doctor about hormonal treatments (e.g. Mirena® intrauterine device (IUD or the Pill).

When to see your doctor

It’s important to see your doctor about period pain that impacts your quality of life. For example, if you need to take time off school or work or plan your life around your periods.

It’s helpful to record information about your periods and take it with you to discuss at your appointment. For example, when you get your period, the length and heaviness of your periods and how period pain affects you.

Your doctor can recommend simple lifestyle changes and therapies that may improve your symptoms or investigate further if needed.

This con­tent has been reviewed by a group of med­ical sub­ject mat­ter experts, in accor­dance with Jean Hailes pol­i­cy.

Last updated: 
26 April 2024
Last reviewed: 
25 March 2024

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