Painful Menstrual Cramps in Teens: Care Instructions

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Your Care Instructions

Menstrual flow

Painful menstrual cramps (called dysmenorrhea) are one of the most common reasons women seek medical attention. Painful periods can cause cramping in the back, thighs, and belly. You may also have diarrhea, constipation, or nausea. Some women get dizzy.

Pain medicine and home treatment can help ease your cramps.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • Take anti-inflammatory medicines to reduce pain, such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) and naproxen (Aleve), for pain from cramps.
    • Start taking the recommended dose of pain medicine as soon as you start to feel pain or the day before your period starts. Keep taking the medicine for as many days as your cramps last.
    • If anti-inflammatory medicines do not relieve the pain, try acetaminophen (Tylenol).
    • Do not take two or more pain medicines at the same time unless the doctor told you to. Many pain medicines have acetaminophen, which is Tylenol. Too much acetaminophen (Tylenol) can be harmful.
    • Talk to your doctor or pharmacist before you take any of these medicines. They may not be safe if you are taking other medicines or have other health problems.
    • Read and follow all instructions on the label.
  • Put a warm water bottle, a heating pad set on low, or a warm cloth on your belly. Heat improves blood flow and may relieve pelvic pain.
  • Lie down and put a pillow under your knees, or lie on your side and bring your knees up to your chest. This will help relieve back pressure.
  • Use pads instead of tampons.
  • Get plenty of exercise every day. This improves blood flow and may decrease pain. Go for a walk or jog, ride your bike, or play sports with friends.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • You passed out (lost consciousness).
  • You have sudden, severe pain in your belly or pelvis.

Call your doctor or nurse call line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have severe vaginal bleeding. This means that you are soaking through your usual pads every hour for 2 or more hours.
  • You are dizzy or light-headed, or you feel like you may faint.
  • You have new belly or pelvic pain.
  • You think you may be pregnant.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse call line if:

  • You continue to have menstrual pain even after taking pain medicine.
  • You feel weak and tired.

Where can you learn more?

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Current as of: February 25, 2016