An estimated nine in 10 young women suffer from menstrual symptoms -dysmenorrhea- to a lesser or greater extent, while one in ten suffers from it. Symptoms usually manifest as continuous cramping pain, but also headaches, muscle pain, nausea and vomiting can also occur.

The pain is sometimes so severe that a woman’s social life, relationship and quality of life are hindered. For this reason, 35% of young women with dysmenorrhea would go miss school and 42% of working women would not be able to carry out their jobs.

There is currently no effective treatment for painful periods of time, although symptoms can be alleviated with painkillers or anti-inflammatories. In this way, the prostaglandin level in the uterine mucosa is lowered. Prostaglandins are hormone-like substances that can increase during the menstrual period, making you feel pain. In addition to pain medication, you can also use hormonal agents that regulate and suppress the menstrual cycle, such as the contraceptive pill.

The beneficial effect of exercise on pain was previously confirmed in small-scale studies. More recently, in a review study, the English Cochrane Group compiled ten different studies involving 754 women under the age of 25. Nine studies compared the effect of exercise on menstrual pain with non-exercise.

One study compared exercise to taking anti-inflammatories. The women in the study exercised three times a week for 45 to 60 minutes. Both low intensity sports (e.g. yoga) and high intensity (e.g. aerobics) were practiced. The study found that all these forms of exercise have a beneficial effect on the intensity of menstrual pain. The women who exercised evaluated their level of pain as a quarter lower than non-sports women.

Exercise therefore appears to have a similar effect on pain reduction as an inflammation inhibitor, but without the harmful side effects. To achieve the pain-lowering effect, you do not need to exercise during the menstrual days themselves. It’s about pursuing a sporty lifestyle. Whether the same effect applies to women over 25 has not been confirmed by this study, as only younger women were the subject of the study.

Elena Mars

Elena writes part-time for the Scientific Origin, focusing mostly on health-related issues.