84% of people who menstruate experience period pain. That means 84% of menstruating people are living with pain that is likely unnecessary and often treatable. Anytime you experience pain anywhere in the body, it is often pointing to dysfunction of some sort and is your body’s way of alerting you to it. It is no different when it comes to pain in our pelvis, low back, or lower abdomen.
We believe there needs to be more education, awareness, and resources offered to menstruating people about their cycles. So as a starting point, we are dedicating this blog post to discussing the overly generalized and overly normalized cyclical pain that so many, many people deal with.
First, let’s look at some numbers:
84% of people who menstruate experience period pain.
32% of people miss work or school due to the severity of their period pain.
55% of people with period pain express the need for medication.
65% of people with period pain have not talked to their doctor about it.
82% of employers offer no accommodations for painful periods.
When calling in sick for work, only 25% of people feel comfortable telling their boss they are experiencing painful periods.
These stats remind us how much of a stigma around periods there truly is in our culture. Periods are something we don’t talk about, and period pain is something we’ve been to we just have to live with. Thankfully, that is no longer the case because you, in fact, don’t have to live with period pain. People are asking questions and treatment is being offered through pelvic PT. We should not brush aside period pain as “normal,” and we have to stop telling people that this is something they have to endure every month if treatment and options are available.
“What causes painful periods?”
We have been taught that period pain is a part of life, so we don’t question it. But, we’re here to tell you it is time to question it, and it is time to get help.
If your hamstring cramped once a month, you would treat it, right? You wouldn’t want to spend ~1/4 of your year with a hamstring cramp...
Similarly, “period cramps” are often muscle cramps in your pelvic floor.
Some common contributors to period pain include:
- Hypertonic (tight) pelvic floor muscles
- Stress, anxiety, trauma
- High intensity sports
- Clenching in lower abdomen, “sucking in” constantly
- Previous surgeries or scar tissue
Also, there are some conditions that can contribute to painful periods like PCOS, Endometriosis, Adenomyosis, etc., but pelvic PT has been proven to even reduce pain that often accompanies these diagnoses. So, no matter the contributing factors, period pain can be treated.
Read that last sentence again.. there is treatment for period pain!
As physical therapists, we specialize in treating musculoskeletal issues, and as pelvic health physical therapists, we have even MORE training in treating muscular imbalances and issues in the pelvis.
We feel strongly that you should not be in pain and should not settle for spending any amount of your month in cyclical pain.
“How can pelvic floor PT help with painful periods?”
Pelvic floor PT can help with period cramps similar to how PT can help with a hamstring cramp. We address and treat the muscle dysfunction!
Things we can do at PT to improve your period symptoms can include:
- Release muscle tension in pelvic floor and surrounding musculature
- Improve lymphatic flow and circulation
- Strengthen weak muscles
- Breath work
- Strategies for stress relief
- Pelvic floor coordination training with exercise
“What can I expect at Pelvic Floor PT for period pain?”
Here are some things we commonly assess and find with period pain during PT:
- Pelvic floor dysfunction: tightness, weakness, impaired coordination
- Improper breathing technique
- Core weakness/ improper core activation
- Surrounding areas of pain or dysfunction: hip, low back, knee, etc
How we treat these issues:
- Manual therapy, myofascial release, visceral mobilization, trigger point release, cupping
- Individualized home exercise program to address your specific needs
- Breath work and coordination to assist with downtraining and relaxation
- Abdominal strength and coordination training
It is time to change the culture around periods and to advocate for ourselves and our bodies. We challenge you to do this, whatever this looks like for you. Whether it’s sharing this blog post with a friend, paying more attention to your body during your cycle, or scheduling a PT appointment to address your symptoms, any step is a step in the right direction.
Don’t forget—your insurance will most likely cover pelvic floor PT if your plan includes physical therapy benefits. So, contact us and stop enduring period pain every month!
--Kristen Braasch, PT, DPT