A doctor told us how to get real relief from your painful period symptoms, and you can thank us later
Nothing compares 2 U, period pain, you royal pain in the ass. Between the cramps, back pain, headaches, poop problems, raging acne, bloating, and poor-quality sleep, we’d love to spend a week every month hibernating while our periods do their thang. But alas! We are working, parenting, school-ing, boss women who have lives to lead—period symptoms be damned! That’s why we rounded up this list of expert-approved ways to get relief during your menstrual cycle—because you don’t have time for this ish.
We asked a doctor to share her top methods for relieving period symptoms, so keep scrolling and then bookmark this page. You’ll want to refer back every month forevermore.
Get some exercise! Research has shown that even light aerobic exercise, like stretching or cycling, can help to reduce menstrual cramps. You can also try a heating pad, hot water bottle, or pain relievers such as ibuprofen, naproxen sodium, or essential oils.
Dr. Jennifer Wider, a women’s health expert, recommends anti-inflammatory pain relievers, stretching, and heat massage to relieve period-related back pain, but notes that “other things can cause back pain, so [it’s] important to find the cause—endometriosis, uterine fibroids, etc.”
Reduce your sodium intake before your period if you deal with regular bloating; look out, especially, for high sodium levels in soups (we know soups are often a go-to for comfort, but they may make you feel more bloated). Dr. Wider also recommends drinking plenty of water and eating potassium-rich foods (which may lower sodium levels) and exercising to help with bloating.
This is a common complaint from women right before their periods, says Dr. Wider. “It’s caused by a hormone drop right before the period starts. If this happens to you, be aware and take proper precautions. Don’t change your sleep schedule, try to have a relaxing ritual before bed: chamomile tea, hot shower, Office reruns! Anything that relaxes you. If you are tossing and turning, don’t stay in bed watching the clock. Get up, read something (avoid the iPad—back light can screw up your sleep cycle) and try again after 20-40 minutes.”
Do you feel murderous right before your period? Dr. Wider says studies have shown that exercise, calcium supplements, avoiding caffeine and alcohol, and stress management can calm those fiery feelings, so give those tips a try before you go off on your partner.
Dealing with a serious period poop situation? It doesn’t have to ruin your week. Dr. Wider recommends eating a fiber-rich diet, and also keeping a food journal and noting which foods aggravate your gastrointestinal system.
Whatever relieves your cramps should also help with your breast tenderness, according to Dr. Wider, but she says you can also try these home remedies: “heating pads, heated blanket, OR cold compresses. Good breast support from a sports bra.”
This symptom’s a little more unusual, but if you think you might have period-related joint paint, Dr. Wider says you should keep a record of your symptoms. “If you have cyclical knee pain, for example, record it and see if it happens before your period,” she says. “If so, [it’s] important to back off of exercise that can exacerbate this the few days before menstruation, and take it easy while you menstruate. [This can be] caused by hormonal fluctuations.”
You’ll probably need medication for this one—try an NSAID, like Advil, or talk to your doctor if that doesn’t provide relief.
If your period has you feeling exhausted, Dr. Wider suggests you try eating magnesium-rich foods, such as dark chocolate, bananas, tofu, nuts, and leafy greens, taking naps, staying hydrated, and getting some light exercise (even a brisk walk around the block will help!).