Physiotherapy & periods
Can Physiotherapy Help during a Period:
For most women, a period or menstrual cycle is commonly associated with abdominal cramps, back pain, bloating, fluid retention and feeling heavy, in addition to other symptoms. There are over a hundred symptoms which are associated with periods or menstruation cycle which vary for different women and different periods.
While mild discomfort during a period is normal, which starts a few days before continuing for 1 st or 2 nd days of the period, some of the women experience moderate to severe forms of these symptoms and/ or for longer times. There are different reasons for the painful period (Dysmenorrhea) varying from simple causes like higher levels of prostaglandins (hormones) to secondary reasons like the fibroids.
Physiotherapy can not only help with pain symptoms during the period, stretching and strengthening exercises prescribed by a Physiotherapist, when done regularly, can prevent or reduce the severity of a painful period in some cases. The unfertilized egg and the endometrium (inner lining of the uterus) which sheds every month is triggered/ coupled with hormonal changes. These hormones also cause muscle contractions/cramps of the uterus, usually felt in the areas of lower back, abdomen, hips or pelvic floor. While abdominal cramps themselves are not painful, the reduced blood supply to the muscle sometimes is the cause of the pain.
While a Physiotherapist needs to perform a comprehensive evaluation to assess your specific condition to prescribe certain stretches and exercises, following are some generic techniques recommended by Physiotherapists to help ease some of the discomforting symptoms during a period:
Deep breathing exercises coupled with relaxation exercises:
Deep inhalation with clenching fists and relaxation of the fists and relaxation of all the muscles while exhaling (long breathing out through mouth) can help improve the oxygen supply to the uterine wall and ease the pain. Heat pads or heat pack application to the back and on abdomen wall which also improve the circulation and help with the pain symptoms.
Exercise release feel good hormones endorphins. Regular aerobic exercise with resistance training can be designed by a Physiotherapist if you are already not on one. These exercises can be continued during periods as much as possible (at reduced intensity). Light aerobic/ cardio and resistance exercise can help not only to relieve pain but also other symptoms along with uplifting the mood.
Physiotherapists also use modalities such as TENS (Transcutaneous Electrical nerve stimulation) to reduce the pain in the back. Any previous back pain existing from before can be felt worse during the periods because of the hormonal changes. Physiotherapist recommend stretches or strengthening exercises to alleviate the same.
Relax techniques and stretching of the muscles targeted at low back, hips etc. help with improved blood supply, reduce tension and ease the pain.
Finally, light massage techniques such as stroking can also be used in relaxing the abdominal cramps and pain. Which can also be done by a partner, as certain types of pain respond best to human touch!