Women all around the world can tell you about the bane that is menstrual cramps also known as dysmenorrhea. Many women experience some degree of this pain throughout the course of their lives.
Symptoms commonly include abdominal pain or cramping, lower back pain, leg pain, headaches, sore breasts, and mood swings.
For some women, the effects are made more severe by conditions like endometriosis, or uterine fibroids. Even polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) can exacerbate the pain.
Menstrual cramps sometimes get disregarded as premenstrual symptoms (PMS), often being blamed as an episode and being diminished in severity. However, the symptoms can be debilitating for many women, rendering them unable to work or be productive, even going as far as interfering with relationships.
Characteristics of dysmenorrhea
Dysmenorrhea is painful cramping during menstruation. They are generally thought to be caused by uterine contractions generated by prostaglandins, which are chemicals that act like hormones.
During menstruation, the uterus contracts more intensely. If the uterus contracts too much, it can press against nearby blood vessels, cutting off the oxygen to the muscle tissue of the uterus. Pain occurs when part of the muscle briefly loses its supply of oxygen.
There are two types of dysmenorrhea, primary and secondary. Primary occurs when the pain is caused by the cramps and are not because of other diseases. Pain usually begins one or two days before, or when menstrual bleeding starts, and is felt in the lower abdomen, back, or thighs.
Pain can range from mild to severe, can typically last twelve to seven-two hours, and can be accompanied by nausea-and-vomiting, fatigue, and even diarrhea. Common menstrual cramps usually become less painful as a woman ages and may stop entirely if the woman has a baby.
Secondary dysmenorrhea results from a disorder in the reproductive organs like dysmenorrhea due to uterine fibroids or endometriosis. Pain from secondary dysmenorrhea usually begins earlier in the menstrual cycle and lasts longer than common menstrual cramps. The pain is not typically accompanied by nausea, vomiting, fatigue, or diarrhea.
It is more common among those with heavy periods, irregular periods, whose periods started before twelve years of age, or who have a low body weight.
Diagnosis is usually confirmed by pelvic ultrasound which can show whether another condition exists.
Dysmenorrhea occurs less often in those who exercise regularly and those who have children early in life. Treatment may include the use of a heating pad. Medications that used include NSAIDs like ibuprofen, hormonal birth control, and IUD with progestogen. Taking certain vitamins may help. Studies have shown that yoga, acupuncture, and massage is may help alleviate symptoms as well. Surgery may be useful if certain underlying problems are present.
How cannabis helps with dysmenorrhea
It has been reported that Queen Victoria was prescribed and used cannabis to relieve her menstrual pain. Now, cannabis use is reported by many women to fight dysmenorrhea on a daily basis.
Cannabis works on the endocannabinoid system, which is mainly in charge of homeostasis in the body. It helps with pain management by cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) binding to CB1 and CB2 receptors which are scattered throughout the brain and peripheral nervous systems.
Once CB1 and CB2 receptors receive signal from the cannabinoids, they release signals to the brain to inhibit pain sensation pathways, thereby slowly numbing the pain in patients. It is to be noted that there is an abundance of cannabinoid receptors in the uterus.
Cannabis has been indicated to alleviate pain in a variety of female reproductive conditions like endometriosis. However, as with many conditions that cannabis has been helpful in, more research is needed before physicians and researchers can make finite conclusions.