This article was updated by the FOLX Editorial Team on 9/29/23.
Disclaimer: any information in this column is purely educational and is not to be used as medical advice.
We intervieed clinician Haley (she/her), NP drawing upon her prior experience as a certified menopause Nurse Practitioner by the North American Menopause Society and working in reproductive care as a primary care provider. Particularly, we discussed the effectiveness of muscle relaxers for period cramps and alternatives for handling menstrual-related pelvic pain.
Do muscle relaxers help with period cramps?
Muscle relaxants like cyclobenzaprine are used to treat muscle spasms. They specifically target musculoskeletal conditions. Menstrual cramps are usually caused by uterine contractions, so muscle relaxants aren't helpful.
Can other medications help alleviate period cramps? If so, which ones?
The most common medications used to treat cramping and pain related to periods or the uterus are NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) like ibuprofen or naproxen. Acetaminophen is also another over-the-counter pain reliever option for those who can’t take NSAIDS.
If persistent pelvic cramping or pain happens every month, birth control pills or the progestin hormone intrauterine device (IUD) can help minimize the occurrence of cramping and overall period pain.
What are some other ways to manage period cramps?
Evidence supports exercise as a treatment for period cramps. Several studies find that exercise decreases pain intensity and, to a lesser extent, pain duration.
Heat is a long-time pain relief favorite for cramping. You can use a hot water bottle, heating pad, or hot bath. I personally like my microwavable heating pad that is filled with rice and essential oils for calming and comfort. Additionally, physical therapy—specifically pelvic floor therapy—might be a treatment option for this kind of chronic pain.
What if I experience other kinds of symptoms, such as constipation, muscle cramps, lower back pain, etc.?
NSAIDS can also help with lower back pain as well as menstrual pain. Drinking plenty of water and increasing fiber-rich foods can help with constipation. If symptoms of constipation are significant, you can try a stool softener like docusate sodium or a dose of Miralax. As always, you can speak with your primary clinician or FOLX clinician about these symptoms.
What are some tips you have for those who feel extra discomfort during their monthly cycles?
Be kind to yourself. It’s okay to take time to relax, exercise, and sit with a heating pad. If you’re still having periods and track your menstrual cycle, you can take NSAIDS, including OTC meds, a day or two prior to your expected period to help minimize PMS symptoms when they come. If you don’t have periods, but still have pelvic pain or cramping, take the pain medicine when your symptoms first start to decrease inflammation and increase relief.
Talk to your healthcare provider or FOLX clinician about the menstrual or pelvic pain and other symptoms you’re experiencing to come up with a plan together.
Anything else you’d like to add?
If you’re having long- or short-term pelvic pain during your period, don’t suffer needlessly; there are things that can help make periods and pelvic pain more tolerable. Please talk to a healthcare professional, such as your FOLX clinician, primary care provider, or gynecologist. Sometimes, there can be underlying issues behind severe pain, including health conditions like endometriosis, adenomyosis, PID, or uterine fibroids.
If you’re a FOLX member experiencing menstrual or pelvic pain and need help finding a provider in your area, reach out to the Help Center to get connected with our member referral network. If you’re a non-FOLX member, sign up for our membership to book a virtual healthcare visit.
FOLX Health is the first digital healthcare company designed by and for the LGBTQIA+ community. Our services include virtual primary care, gender-affirming hormone therapy including estrogen and testosterone (HRT), mental health care, sexual and reproductive health care, preventive care, and fertility consultations. FOLX memberships give you access to LGBTQIA+ expert clinicians, peer support, thousands of LGBTQIA+ resources, and more. Whether you’re lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, gender non-conforming, or nonbinary, you can find LGBTQIA+-specialized health care that helps you meet your wellness goals. FOLX Health is health care that's queer all year. Get all the benefits of becoming a FOLX member and sign up today!