Back Pain: What’s Normal, Period-Related, and Not

back painPeriods aren’t only a pain in the ass… they’re also normally pains in the back! It’s totally normal to get lower back pain during your period, but we’re here to help you understand what’s normal, in relation to PMS and periods, what’s excessive, and ways to deal with it!

First, let’s understand why our backs hurt during menstruation. Chemicals released during your period called prostaglandins cause the uterus, and thus the intestines, to contract, allowing you to shed the uterine wall and mucus layers built over the last month. These contractions radiate through the web of nerves within your pelvic region causing referred pain in your back and sometimes, presses on blood vessels in the area, limiting or cutting off the supply of oxygen to the nearby muscles. This can cause pain in the back and thighs and also cause episodes of diarrhea!

If you have severe pain, and in places that extend beyond just your back, for example your sacral area or lower abdomen, or you have pelvic cramping, you could be suffering from endometriosis. Endometriosis is caused when endometrial tissue occurs outside the uterus; when hormones are released, it responds as the uterine cells would, causing inflammation, irritation, and pain wherever it is found in the body. Other symptoms of endometriosis are heavy periods, irregular periods or spotting, pain during or after intercourse, and even nausea. Severe pain and cramping may also be symptoms of other conditions like PCOS, fibroids in the uterus, pelvic inflammatory disease, or an infection.

Because we feel crappy overall during our periods, it’s also important to note your exact symptoms and where the pain is coming from. For example, some women confuse their sacral areas (pelvis) with their lower back. During your period your uterus swells and can expand to double the size and weigh. Because it’s suspended within the pelvis and sits above the sacrum, expansion puts heavy pressure on the uterosacral ligaments, which can then create a dragging feeling, heaviness or pain on the sacrum and tailbone. The most common causes of serious pelvic pain include irritable bowel syndrome (35%), which is usually accompanied with bloating and diarrhea or constipation and hence conflated with normal period cramping.  Pelvic inflammatory disease and interstitial cystitis, which typically makes you feel like you have to pee all the time, are two of the other major causes. It’s important to try and distinguish what is going on due to the longer term risks of infertility or cysts bursting, depending on the case.

Women are actually 8 to 10 times more likely to suffer from sacroiliac pain than men, mostly because of structural and hormonal differences between the sexes. A woman’s anatomy allows one less sacral segment to lock with the pelvis. It may sound minor, but this has a big influence on instability. Also, the hormonal changes of menstruation, pregnancy, and lactation can affect the integrity of the ligament support around the S-I joint, which is why women often find the days leading up to their period are when the pain is at its worst. To counteract pelvic or Sacroiliac pain, check out our link below!

In addition to stretching and light yoga, if your back pain limits your daily routine, avoid salt, tobacco, alcohol and caffeine when menstruating to decrease cramping and bloating. Take Ibuprofen for cramping (better than Acetaminophen since it directly addresses inflammation) and address the painful areas with heat. Heat soothes sore muscles, increases blood flow and circulation, and expands blood vessels allowing oxygen to flow more freely and limiting the painful effects of cramping. You should also begin tracking your period so that the length, severity of pain, and any patterns in data can be analyzed for a diagnosis. Period tracking can help you understand what’s normal for you — how long your cycle is, what symptoms are normal, what effects your diet or routine have on your body, and can track your fertility if you’re planning on getting pregnant in the near future.

MaxION Pads and Liners

Make sure you take plenty of rest during menstruation and wear pads you can trust for leak-free nights and anxiety-free sleep; try our MaxION pads infused with silver and tourmaline. Silver is a naturally occurring element that has antibacterial properties and Tourmaline is a naturally occurring gemstone with the said ability to elevate mood, increase energy levels and enhance immune function. Also, try sleeping on your side in the fetal position, with a pillow between your knees, when you’re cramping or laying flat with a hot water bottle on either side of your body. Let us know on Twitter what works best for your back pain!

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Links for More Information

To learn more about PCOS (poly cystic ovarian syndrome), click here.

Click here for information about sacral and pelvic pain, as well as the yoga poses recommended for it.

To read our reviews of period tracking apps, click here or learn more about wearable technology that helps women with fertility tracking here.

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