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Harvard Medical School
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General Medical Questions
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Question : I have a lot of painful cramping with my periods. But I also get low back pain. Is this related? What do you suggest?
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The Trusted Source
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Howard LeWine, M.D.

Joan Marie Bengtson, M.D., is assistant professor of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive biology at Harvard Medical School and a member of the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology & Reproduction at Brigham and Women's Hospital.

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August 22, 2013
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Dysmenorrhea is the medical term for painful periods. Most often women with this condition report crampy pain in the lower abdomen or deep in the pelvis. Low back pain and bloating are other symptoms.

Primary dysmenorrhea is the term for common menstrual cramps. It is caused by hormone changes. Prostaglandin hormones increase the blood flow to the uterus. This creates a sense of bloating. The uterine muscle may tense up, causing cramps. The muscles and ligaments in the lower back also can tense up, causing pain.

Usually the pain is not severe. And you can get relief with a hot bath, rest and use of over-the-counter pain medicine such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen.

If your discomfort is severe or does not improve with simple methods, you should see your doctor. Some women will need oral contraceptives to manage their dysmenorrhea.

In addition, certain other conditions such as endometriosis can cause painful periods. This is called secondary dysmenorrhea. This may require treatment for the underlying condition as well as the menstrual pain.

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