Essentially, the uterus tightens when the blood supply is reduced, resulting in contractions similar to those experienced during childbirth. This can be extremely painful, to the point where women may have difficulty working, walking or standing upright. Even milder cases of menstrual cramps can cause a woman to reach for medications or home remedies.
One such home remedy involves the use of a heating pad or heat pack placed on the lower abdomen or back to reduce discomfort. According to the Mayo Clinic, “applying heat may be just as effective as over-the-counter pain medication for relieving menstrual cramps.”
How does heat help with menstrual cramps?
There has been some debate on this point. In 2001, Dr. Michael Zinger of the University of Cincinnati set out to determine whether heat causes increased blood flow to the uterus and thereby reduces period pain. He reported that his team “did find a significant decrease in the amount of pain the patients had” during a four-hour heat treatment session. However, the researchers were not able to confirm an increase in average blood flow to the uterus. Another possible reason for heat aiding with menstrual cramps is muscle relaxation. When it comes to other muscle soreness, a heating pad or warm pad increases tissue elasticity, provides comfort and allows tension to melt away. The same principle can be applied to the lower abdomen or back. Whatever the cause, medical professionals agree that using heat therapy is beneficial.
What’s the best way to apply heat?
Since menstrual cramps and period pain can occur anytime, anywhere, you need a convenient, on-the-go method. Using an electrical heat pad gets the job done, but its electrical cord keeps you tethered to an outlet. A hot bath can provide some relief, but certainly isn’t useful while you are at work. Arguably, the most convenient way to apply heat is with a disposable heating pad. Unlike other methods, a heating pad is not dependent on electricity or water; it allows you to continue with work or other daily activities while relieving your pain. Some heating pads even have an adhesive backing, that you stick to your clothes so that you can move freely.
1. The heating pad should be applied to the stomach or lower back area, depending on where you are feeling the most discomfort.
2. The pad should never be applied directly to the skin but on the outside of the clothing, therefore tight fitted clothing is recommended to get the best transfer of heat to the affected area.
Menstrual cramps are no laughing matter. The pain that a woman experiences during her cycle can interfere with her work, daily activities and ability to move. Using a heating pad can greatly reduce symptoms and make it easier to function. Even if heat may not actually increase blood flow to the uterus, it certainly is helpful in making you feel much better. Whether your menstrual cramps are severe or mild, heat therapy will make your muscles relax and feel more comfortable. So, the next time you feel like reaching for that over-the-counter pain medication, consider grabbing a heating pad first. Women have been passing this advice down through the generations that placing a hot water bottle on your belly can really ease your period pain, and now many researchers and scientists agree that granny knew the secret! Heat can really alleviate your pain in a similar way to painkillers, and even scientists from University College London proved that heat treatments block the pain messages to the brain and deactivate the pain at a molecular level, so why not get one step closer to a pain-free period?