Menstrual Cramps

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Question

Are there any over-the-counter medications besides Tylenol used to treat menstrual cramps?

Answer

There are other over-the-counter medications besides Tylenol® (acetaminophen) to treat menstrual cramps. A class of drugs called nonsteroidal inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) actually block prostaglandin production and so should help with the menstrual cramping. Over-the-counter NSAIDs include ibuprofen (Advil®, Motrin®) or naproxen (Aleve®). The most common side effect with NSAIDs is gastrointestinal discomfort. Other things that can help with menstrual cramps are using a heating pad on your lower abdomen or soaking in a hot bath. There may be other causes for extremely painful menstrual pain. Be sure to contact your physician to make sure other causes are ruled out, especially if you don't find relief from NSAlDs.

Menstrual cramp causes

The reason why you get cramps is because your body produces a hormone-like substance called prostaglandins. Prostaglandins trigger uterine muscle contractions. The more prostaglandins you have, the more severe your menstrual cramps are. Tylenol® (acetaminophen) does not help with blocking prostaglandins, which may be why it does not help with menstrual cramp relief.

Read about other Menstrual Disorders in our Health Encyclopedia.

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