At Live Well Health Essentials, a company founded by women, we know all too well the complications that period pain causes, and especially as an active person myself finding ways to support my body when lower back period pain and cramps hit has been an ongoing pursuit.
Period pain can be one of the greatest interferences to everyday jobs, making something as habitual as picking up your kids from school or running errands require double the energy it would on a regular day. So when period pain, be that lower back period pain, migraines, menstrual cramps or fatigue, enters the picture when you’re playing a sport or in the gym, it can be debilitating.
Menstrual health in women’s sports is often left out of the conversation when it comes to sports injuries and injury prevention - and yet it is something that affects 50% of women every month like clockwork. Whether you’re a professional athlete, squeezing in a workout while the family is out, or you’re volunteering to coach your kid’s soccer team, when period pain strikes it can sap the energy you need to persevere.
So to help you discover what works best for you, we have put together a collection of treatments and information for period pain to help women become more educated about menstrual health and the effects of lower back period pain in sports below!
Is There More Than One Type of Period Pain?
The first time I experienced period pain, I was 12 years old and extremely unimpressed at the timing. One might not consider musical theatre a conventional sport, but I did, and the first wave of cramps that wracked my body almost made me throw up from the pain, forcing me to go home from school. I used to think cramps were the only type of period pain you could experience until I started experiencing lower back pain in my mid teens.
What does period pain in the lower back feel like?
Imagine having one long, never ending cramp in your lower back, and throw in some shooting pains from your back down the backs of your legs… if you’ve ever experienced lower back period pain you’ll know what I'm talking about.
What causes lower back period pain?
Pain in the lower back during menstruation has been typically linked to the uterus contracting and sending waves of pain that reach the lower back, and the release of hormones called prostaglandins which are released during your menstrual cycle and can affect the lower back muscles.
What can I do to help with lower back period pain?
Heat packs are one of the foremost ways to help relieve lower back period pain. To facilitate more effective pain relief, Live Well Health Essentials hot and cold lupin bags are also available with lumbar straps so you can place the heat packs on your lower back with ease, eliminating the juggling routine of trying to hold one hot water bottle to your stomach, another one to your back, and somehow still go about your day.
Of course, everyone is different and people experience pain in varying ways. The types of period pain we feel can even evolve throughout your life, so it’s not uncommon to develop nausea, back pain, dizziness, or even migraine symptoms as you get older.
Can migraines be a form of period pain?
Menstrual migraines are actually more common than you might think, and are one of the most severe forms of period pain you can experience. A report published in 2012 stated that 10-20% of women experience migraines only during their menstrual cycle, and that menstrual migraines symptoms are found to be less receptive to treatment, last longer, and are more severe than migraines experienced outside of menstruation. Imagine trying to go to work, play a game of basketball, cook or really do anything but lay in bed while experiencing a menstrual migraine!
What causes a menstrual migraine?
A menstrual migraine can be brought on by a variety of causes, a common catalyst being the sudden drop in estrogen your body experiences right before your period begins. Certain kinds of oral contraceptives have also been linked to the onset of menstrual migraines, and of course individual genetics play a big role in the tendency towards experiencing migraines during menstruation.
How can I help ease my migraine symptoms holistically?
Live Well Health Essentials has created specially designed hot and cold bags to aid in relieving migraine pain. These packs are small enough to drape over your eyes and/or neck, lightweight enough not to add more discomfort , and most importantly completely odour free to help ease migraine symptoms. As there is relatively little awareness on treating hormonal or menstrual migraines, we are passionate about creating products that actually help relieve pain in a complementary fashion with your regular medication or treatment plans, and of creating easily accessible information - you can read more about migraine treatments and symptoms on our blog.
Period Pain and Women’s Sports
There is an extensive market and general awareness for physical injuries when it comes to sports, as well as a much more understanding attitude for injuries like a sprained joint, muscle tear, or any other injury that would require a rest from exercise or participating in sports. When you hear about a male basketball player having an injured wrist, no one would expect them to just keep on playing through the pain. But when it comes to women experiencing period pain in sports, there is an expectation to play through the pain that is very prevalent and doesn’t leave a lot of room for performance discrepancy.
I’ve always considered myself an active person, and as I get older I see the value in participating in team sports and individual exercise more and more to maintain good mental and physical health. I have strived to bring that value into Live Well Health to encourage a healthy lifestyle, and to promote women in sports - did you know that Live Well Health Essentials is a proud sponsor and supporter of the Terrigal Trojans women’s rugby team? Encouraging women in sport is a strong value at live Well Health and part of our foundation.
Can sports or exercise help with period pain?
Many studies have shown that getting your circulation moving can help ease painful cramps and lower back period pain, and doing light aerobic exercises like yoga, light walking or jogging will release endorphins that help relieve pain and improve our mental state. Heavy or high contact activities like HIIT workouts or rugby are generally not recommended to help relieve period pain, but everyone is unique so the most important thing is to listen to what your body needs!
Hopefully the discussion around menstruation and how it can affect women’s performance in sports is starting to become normalised, as shown by one of the top ranked golf players, Lydia Ko when interviewed after her phenomenal performance during the Palos Verdes Championship. Ko discussed how her back becomes “tight” and “twisted” and how it required an on site sports physiotherapist to attend to her on the golf course, and she highlighted what a common factor period pain is for female athletes - leaving her male interviewer a little lost for words!
Can I take any Preventative Measures For Period Pain?
Painful periods put a damper on your plans, so if you’re someone like myself who experiences pretty painful menstruation the lead up to your period can cause stress in anticipation. Do I have my medication stocked up, do I have supplies, if I drink this coffee will it aggravate my cramps and make them worse… So if there’s a way to prevent period pain, that would be amazing, right?
Well, while there is no magic pill to stop you from cramping unless you are on certain forms of birth control, studies have shown a few ways that can help prevent period pain in much the same way you would consider injury prevention techniques in sports.
Surprise surprise, it’s exercise! There have been findings that show keeping regular physical activity in your lifestyle can help maintain your body’s ability to function as best as it can, helping to ease period pain.
Herbs and supplements
There are quite a lot of supplements that you can try to help prevent or minimise menstrual pain. One in particular that worked for me when taken regularly was an evidence based herbal supplement called Femme fort, designed to support women’s hormonal balance and menstrual health as well as bodily stress. I found when I took this regularly for the first time I did not need to take pain medication during my period for the first time in my life since I was 12 years old. As with any medication, even herbal, check with your health professional to see what’s right for you.
Other herbal supplements that support your menstrual cycle include ginger, an anti inflammatory, cinnamon, peppermint, fennel, and more. Sometimes it’s all about trial and error to see what your body responds too.
If you’ve never heard of this device, I’m right there with you - I found out about it only very recently through a friend. Standing for transcutaneous electric nerve stimulation, the way these devices work is they have small pads connected to a little machine, and through those pads the machine sends small waves of electric pulses that block the transmission of pain signals from your nerves to your brain. These are on the pricey side, but have shown to be widely successful in easing pain in a drug-free way.
And so how do you manage period pain?
Period pain is a ruthless obstacle for 50% of women who experience painful menstruation. Trying to focus on the simplest of tasks is exponentially harder when experiencing lower back period pain, cramps and migraines… and for those of us with families, jobs and active sports commitments trying to discover ways not to let period pain overrun our day can be time consuming in itself. So while research is becoming more readily available and the discourse around the impact of period pain to your performance is starting to be more normalised, hopefully this article helped you save some precious time and provide some valuable insights into how you can help holistically relieve and prevent period pain.