How to Help Tweens and Teens Relieve Menstrual Pain

Mother sitting on her daughter's bed, handing her medicine

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Don't chalk it up to dramatics. Your daughter's menstrual pain could be seriously painful. Periods bring headaches, PMS and cramps. It's a lot for a young girl to go through. Fortunately, menstrual discomfort is treatable. Read on to learn what kind of pain is normal and what isn't, as well as how to ease discomfort.

When Period Pain Isn't Normal

Menstrual cramps and PMS (premenstrual syndrome) are not the same. PMS symptoms such as mood swings, irritability, bloating, and fatigue appear approximately a week before the menstrual cycle begins. After it starts, symptoms improve dramatically.

After the menstrual cycle begins, PMS symptoms fade, but new pain emerges—menstrual cramps. Menstrual cramps are caused by uterine contractions.

The lining of the uterus releases prostaglandins that make the contractions more painful, especially during the first few days of the menstrual cycle. Menstrual discomfort is more of a nuisance than anything, but how can you tell when it's more than just period pain? There are two types of menstrual pain—primary dysmenorrhea and secondary dysmenorrhea.

  • Primary dysmenorrhea: This pain occurs around the time of a girl's first period. This kind of pain typically doesn't indicate a medical condition.
  • Secondary dysmenorrhea: This type of pain develops some time after a woman first began menstruating, even for a woman who has a history of normal periods. This type of pain usually indicates issues with the uterus and pelvic organs, including endometriosis, fibroids, and pelvic inflammatory disease.

If your daughter's period pain is not relieved with anti-inflammatory medication and is so severe that it prevents her from going to school or seeing her friends, there could be another reason for her symptoms. In that case, see your doctor.

Tips to Help Your Daughter Relieve Menstrual Discomfort

Mild menstrual discomfort is possible to soothe. If your daughter is dealing with cramps and pain, recommend one of these tried and true ways to ease discomfort.

  • Exercise: Mild exercise often cuts the pain. It doesn't have to be an intense workout. Encourage your daughter to go for a walk around the neighborhood. Yoga and stretching exercises can also help ease pain.
  • Warm bath: A warm bath or shower can help reduce or relieve menstrual cramps. Give your daughter permission to stay in the bathroom for as long as she needs to allow the warm water to work its magic.
  • Heat: Many girls find pain relief by applying a heating pad to the pelvic area. Keep the heating pad set to medium or low heat to avoid burning the skin.
  • Pain medication: Lots of over-the-counter painkillers are super effective in relieving menstrual cramps and pain. Ibuprofen (Advil and Motrin) and naproxen sodium (Aleve) are widely used to relieve menstrual cramps. Don't administer any Aspirin products to anyone under age 20, as it can increase the risk of Reye's syndrome, a rare, often fatal disease. As with any medication, make sure it is taken properly and do not overlap any medication without first consulting your doctor.​
  • Comforts: Go easy on your tween when she's in the midst of menstrual cramps. At times, pain is severe. Girls may need alone time or time to relax in front of the TV while waiting for the pain to subside. Comforts like a hot cup of tea or a warm, cozy blanket may help her get through her pain a little faster.
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