Day one of your period and you’re already in so much pain. Did you know that up to 80% of women have experienced low back pain whilst on their period!? Surely that must mean something! It’s a known fact that our menstrual cycle is a normal part of life. Some women have become so accustomed to the pain that comes with it, that they assume it’s a routine part of their cycle. Although periods are healthy and normal, the back pain that comes with it doesn’t have to be.
Primary vs. secondary dysmenorrhoea
The technical term for period-related pain is ‘dysmenorrhoea’. This doesn’t just refer to cramping, but also includes things like low back pain, nausea and fatigue. In primary dysmenorrhea, the main culprit is a set of hormones called prostaglandins. They are known to regulate the female reproductive system, the process of ovulation and the induction of labour. They help shed the lining of the uterus in preparation for your period by creating muscular contractions. If your prostaglandin levels are high, the contractions are likely to be stronger with a reduction of blood flow to the area. These are the period cramps that we all know too well.
The less common type is secondary dysmenorrhoea. This type of period pain is due to an underlying reproductive disorder rather than just cramping. Such disorders include endometriosis, adenomyosis, fibroids and sexually transmitted disorders. The symptoms accompanied by these conditions are due to a broader issue; therefore treatment will involve correcting the underlying disorder, rather than just treating the symptoms. We will always refer out if we feel you need additional assessment and management if there is something outside our scope of practice. We know that working alongside other healthcare professionals will get you the results you are looking for.
So, which do I have?
Although primary dysmenorrhoea is more common than its counterpart, it’s still important to be aware if you have any underlying issues. A good start is to have a chat with your Chiropractor and GP about your periods. Some helpful questions to ask yourself include:
Is my pain relieved with over the counter medication?
Is my pain so intense that it stops me from doing day-to-day tasks?
Is my flow extremely heavy?
Do I experience painful sex?
Do I have a family history of reproductive related conditions?
If you can relate to at least two of these questions, then it’s best you talk to a health professional about your menstrual cycle. Helpful signs of secondary dysmenorrhoea include heavy/long periods, extreme pain, high levels of fatigue and pain with sex or going to the bathroom. If you are finding your period difficult to manage, you don’t have to suffer in silence, as there are effective treatment methods available.
Let’s move onto primary dysmenorrhoea. Although the exact physiology as to why women experience low back pain isn’t yet completely understood, it’s more often than not related to changes in hormone levels and the effect that this has on ligaments in our pelvis. A research study found that a fluctuation in hormone levels has a direct influence on the level of collagen production, therefore leading to ligamentous laxity (loose ligaments) and spinal instability.
Any degree of spinal instability is more likely to be accompanied by a degree of back pain. As mentioned previously, prostaglandins are another factor in the onset of low back pain during your menstrual cycle. Although the contractions are felt in your abdomen, they have the ability to refer pain into the low back. This gives the impression that you have low back pain and isn’t necessarily the root of the cause, but rather a symptom as a result of the abdominal contractions. Chiropractic care is extremely effective in the prevention and treatment of back-related issues. We are able to assess how your spine and pelvis work as a unit to improve function and reduce pain.
What to do next?
Here at Dynamic Chiropractic, we are a female-based Chiropractic team that aim to make your experience as comfortable as possible. We understand that this can be a sensitive topic for some women to discuss, so we will always listen without judgment. Our goal is to listen to what you have to say and help find solutions to make your experience with periods that little bit better.
P.S We also stock some beautiful lupin heat packs that will help with discomfort too!
What to Do When Period Back Pain Strikes. (2022). Retrieved 20 May 2022, from https://greatist.com/health/period-back-pain#treatment
Back Pain During Your Period: Everything You Need to Know | Dorsal. (2022). Retrieved 20 May 2022, from https://www.dorsalhealth.com/blog/period-back-pain-causes-treatment
Prostaglandins | You and Your Hormones from the Society for Endocrinology. (2022). Retrieved 20 May 2022, from https://www.yourhormones.info/hormones/prostaglandins/