Health Conditions

Dysmenorrhea: Painful Menstrual Periods

Most women have some pain with their periods. The pain can start just before your period or at the beginning of your period and can last one to three days. The pain can be bad enough to keep you from doing your normal activities.

Painful periods, or dysmenorrhea (pronounced: dis-men-oh-ree-ah), are not usually serious. However, sometimes painful periods can be caused by an infection or by ovarian cysts (fluid-filled sacs in the ovary).

Pain also can be caused by endometriosis (pronounced: en-doe-me-tree-oh-sis). This is a problem with the lining of the uterus.


You can try using heating pads or taking a warm bath.

You can also buy medicines without a prescription to help with the symptoms of PMS. These medicines usually combine aspirin or acetaminophen with caffeine, antihistamines, or diuretics. Some brand names include Midol, Pamprin, and Premsyn PMS.

Over-the-counter pain relievers can also help with the pain. These include ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), and naproxen (Aleve). These medicines work well for mild or moderate pain.

Your health care provider might want you to try using birth control pills or a birth control shot. These medicines can make your periods less painful.

When to Call Your Doctor

Talk to your health care provider if you have any of the following symptoms:

  • Pain at times other than the first couple of days of your period.

  • Unusual vaginal discharge or bleeding.

  • Pain that doesn't go away when you take medicine to relieve it.


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