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What is Period Pain and How to Treat It

  • If you have period pain, you’re not alone!
  • Most women have experienced period pain.
  • In fact, it is one of the most common gynaecological problems

In an Australian study, period pain is a problem faced by up to 8 out of 10 women and is one of the most common gynaecological problems.1 In this study, most women experience period pain once they start menstruating (having a period), for some it may not appear for another 6-12 months after their first period.1

Despite the fact that it’s such a common condition, it might be a surprise to realise that it can have such an impact on everyday living: over 35% of teenage girls have had to take time off school because of their period pain.1 And even up to one in five women have found it stops them getting on with their lives.2

If you have period pain, you’ll know it as a cramping pain just above your pubic area, but you might also find your lower back or back of your legs also hurt.1 It usually starts around the time, or just before, your period begins and is at its worst for the first couple of days, after which it dies down.1 Some months the pain can be worse than others and it often gets better as you get older or have children.2

You might also have other symptoms as well as pain:1,2

  • Nausea
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Tiredness
  • Light-headedness/feeling faint
  • Diarrhoea.

Causes of Period Pain

The medical term for period pain is dysmenorrhoea and there are two types:1,2

  • Primary – this is what we would know as regular period pain, caused by the menstrual cycle
  • Secondary – this is when the pain is due to another underlying cause, such as ovarian cysts, fibroids, endometriosis or pelvic inflammatory disease. This type of period pain is more likely in women aged 30-45 years and should always be investigated by your doctor (see When to See Your Doctor section).

Primary dysmeonorrhoea is caused by natural chemicals in your body called prostaglandins. They have many roles in the body, such as being produced when we are sick or injured.3 Another job they have is to make the womb contract during menstruation to help you get rid of the lining of the womb, they also cause cramping and make your nerves more sensitive to pain.1 Some women have too many prostaglandins produced, or they may have a build-up, though it’s not understood why this happens, but that’s what causes your pain.1,2

Treating Period Pain

The first-line recommendation for treating period pain is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID), such as ibuprofen2, the medicine in Nurofen 200mg Coated Tablets. These block the enzymes that help make prostaglandins, so inhibiting prostaglandin production.1 NSAIDs relieve period pain in about 70% of women.2 If NSAIDs don’t work for you, or they are not suitable, paracetamol is an alternative option.2

Other things you can try to relieve your period pain include:2

  • Heat – heath wraps/patches, hot water bottles or warm baths/showers
  • Massage – gently massaging your lower abdomen in circular movements
  • Relaxation techniques, such as Pilates or yoga
  • TENS machine – this stands for Transcutaneous Electronic Nerve Stimulation, which sends small electrical pulses to the nerves to help block pain.

Find out more about Nurofen 200mg Coated Tablets

Helping Prevent Period Pain

Although you might not feel like it at certain times of the month, exercise can help.4 Research shows that doing any type of exercise for 45-60 minutes at least three times a week throughout the month, it can help ease period pain.4

Another thing that can help is taking the combined oral contraceptive pill.2 They obviously come with the huge added benefit of preventing pregnancy too. Ask your doctor or family planning clinic if you think this could be an option for you.

When to see your doctor

For most women, having some pain during their period is just a natural part of life, something they know will ease up in a few days. However, you should check with your doctor if your period pain:2

  • Doesn’t get better with an over-the-counter pain reliever
  • Is severe or you have a sudden, severe abdominal pain
  • Gets worse or lasts longer than normal or if you have unusual symptoms
  • You have other symptoms such as fever, a thick or smelly discharge or large blood clots in your menstrual blood
  • Your periods change, for example they last longer, they are less regular, you have bleeding in between periods, or the pain is worse than normal
  • You start experiencing pain during sexual intercourse.


Nurofen 200mg Coated Tablets contain ibuprofen. For mild to moderate pain and fever. ALWAYS READ THE LABEL


This article is for general information only and not intended as a substitute for medical advice. All information presented on these web pages is not meant to diagnose or prescribe. In all health-related matters, always consult your healthcare professional.


  • 1

    Marjoribanks A, et al. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2015, Issue 7. Art. No.: CD001751.

    DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD001751.pub3

  • 2

    Health Service Executive. Dysmenorrhoea. Accessed May 2021. 

  • 3

    Health Service Executive. Ibuprofen. Accessed May 2021. 

  • 4

    Armour M, et al. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2019, Issue 9. Art. No.: CD004142.

    DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD004142.pub4.