Everything you need to know about period pain

Approved by our medical experts

It’s fair to say that getting your period can be a right pain in the…tummy (literally!) But it’s important that we understand why we’re getting this pain, how it can be treated and, more significantly, if it’s a normal level of pain.

It’s worth pointing out at this point that some women, girls and people who have periods don’t get period pain at all, that’s totally normal too! But it’s always good to understand what others go through so you can be there to support your besties who bleed if they need you. So get yourself comfortable, we’re going to chat through all the aches and pains and give you some ideas on how you can ease the cramps to make it all a bit more manageable.

Why do we experience period pain?

If you’ve read our Period 101 blog you’ll have a rough idea of why we get period pains (if you haven’t make sure you go and take a look for the lowdown on your Bloody Brilliant period) but we’re going to go into things in a bit more detail here. Period pain happens when the muscles in your uterus tighten. Unlike other muscles you have control over, the muscles in your uterus do this automatically. Just before and during your period these contractions become stronger to help the lining of your uterus shed.

It’s not just the muscles contracting that can cause pain though, in the same way that your body does this all automatically there are a number of other things that happen in the process too - this is where the science stuff comes in. When the muscles in your uterus contract hormones are released, these hormones trigger pain and cause the muscles to contract even more. While it’s hard to say exactly why some of us feel more pain than others during our periods, for some it can be that their body has built up some of the hormones meaning the contractions are stronger which can hurt more.

A young person suffering from period pain using a hot water bottle

Where will I get period pain?

It’s not just stomach cramps that you might notice when you’re on your period, the tightening of your muscles can cause pain to spread into other areas too such as your lower back and thighs. These cramps can feel different depending on the person, sometimes you might get a dull ache, other times it might be a bit more intense. This can also vary over time, generally speaking the older you get the less you experience period pain.

How long will it last?

Everyone will experience period pain slightly differently, and that includes how long you feel the effects for. Cramps can start a couple of days before you get your period and last a few days once you’ve started to bleed. The pain usually eases as your period goes on, so a couple of days after starting you should feel much better.

What can I do to help?

There are lots of different things you can do to help your period pain, from more natural remedies to medicines. Painkillers such as ibuprofen and paracetamol are effective at reducing pain your period brings but you should always ask a parent or carer for advice before taking painkillers. They’ll be able to tell you what medicine you can take, when to take it and importantly how much. 

Another great way to reduce pain is using heat. A hot water bottle or heat pad will be your new best friend, if you’ve not got a cover for your hot water bottle try wrapping it in a towel or blanket so it’s not too hot and nice and cosy. You can use it on your back, tummy or wherever you feel achy, the heat will help to soothe the muscles and reduce the cramping. Another Bloody Brilliant favourite is a nice warm bath or shower, it works in the same way as the hot water bottle but on your whole body. Throw in some of your favourite bubbles - or we love a good lavender bath bomb – to help you feel nice and relaxed too.

A slightly more unusual way of easing cramps – if you can manage it, is to do something active! No, we aren’t joking…getting your body moving can really help to ease period pain. A yoga flow, nice long walk or even a gentle swim (yes this is possible on your period check out our blog on period products to find out more) could work wonders. If you’re lacking inspiration for getting active, why not take a look online and do a session from the comfort of your own home. For more ways to make yourself feel good while you’re on your period we’ve got a really helpful illustrated guide full of tips and ideas.

What’s normal when it comes to pain?

If you’ve read any of our other blogs, you’ll know by now that we’re always saying “everyone is different” and the reason we always say it is because it’s true! And it’s definitely the case when it comes to pain. It’s important that you get to know what your normal is - like with all things period related. Pain is one of the most unfortunate sides to your period, but it can be treated either with the techniques we spoke about above, or if they don’t work your doctor or nurse will be able to help. One of the most important things when experiencing period pain is knowing your body. If you’re finding the pain is stopping you from doing the things you would usually do, like going to school or spending time with your mates, you should speak to someone about it. For some of us the usual methods just aren’t enough and it’s always safest to get these things checked out. Help is out there for you, there’s no need to suffer in silence.

So when the cramps are getting you down, grab that hot water bottle or run yourself a nice bath, and cut your body a bit of slack. Remember, there’s no shame in talking about how you’re feeling. There’s a lot going on down there and it’s doing a Bloody Brilliant job of keeping you healthy.