Menstrual Distress (Dysmenorrhea)

What is Menstrual Distress (Dysmenorrhea)?

Menstrual distress, also known as dysmenorrhea, is a medical condition that is characterized by debilitating physical and/or psychological conditions during a woman’s menstrual cycle. While it is normal to experience mild symptoms such as cramping and mood swings during a menstrual period, severe cases of menstrual distress require medical attention and can significantly impair a woman’s quality of life.

Symptoms of Dysmenorrhea

The intensity and duration of dysmenorrhea symptoms can vary from one woman to the next, but they typically include:

  • Strong and sometimes debilitating pelvic pain, sometimes accompanied by nausea, vomiting, and/or diarrhea.
  • Pain in the abdomen, lower back, and/or inner thighs.
  • Headaches and/or migraines.
  • Fatigue.
  • Difficulty sleeping.
  • Mood swings, depression, and/or increased irritability.
  • Low energy.

Causes of Dysmenorrhea

There are two types of dysmenorrhea – primary and secondary. Primary dysmenorrhea is the most common form of the condition and is not a result of any other underlying medical condition. Instead, primary dysmenorrhea is typically caused by the production of excess prostaglandin, a hormone-like substance that is released during a woman’s menstrual cycle. While the exact cause of primary dysmenorrhea is not known, it is believed to be a result of the body’s inability to metabolize the excess prostaglandin.

Secondary dysmenorrhea, on the other hand, is caused by another underlying medical condition, such as endometriosis, adenomyosis, pelvic inflammatory disease, ovarian cysts, or uterine fibroids. The presence of any of these medical conditions can cause the pelvic and lower back pain associated with dysmenorrhea.

Treatment of Menstrual Distress

The treatment of menstrual distress will depend on the type and severity of the symptoms. In most cases, lifestyle modifications, such as getting regular exercise, getting enough rest, and eating a healthy diet, can help to alleviate some of the symptoms associated with dysmenorrhea. Other treatments, such as over-the-counter medications, acupuncture, and herbs, may also be effective in managing the symptoms of menstrual distress.

In more severe cases, a doctor may recommend stronger medications, hormonal birth control, or even surgery to treat the underlying medical condition causing the menstrual distress. In some cases, these treatments can be effective in controlling the symptoms associated with dysmenorrhea.


Menstrual distress is a common and often debilitating condition for many women. Although the symptoms of dysmenorrhea can vary from person to person, understanding the root causes, as well as the medical and lifestyle treatments available, can help those with dysmenorrhea take control of their health care and live healthier, more comfortable lives.