Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

beginning of content

Managing period pain

3-minute read

Period pain, also called dysmenorrhoea, is common but can prevent some women from doing their normal activities. However, there are many ways to manage painful periods.

Causes of period pain

Period pain is often a normal but uncomfortable part of a woman’s menstrual cycle. It’s caused by chemicals called prostaglandins which are made in the lining of the womb (uterus) and trigger muscle contractions during your period. This type of pain is called primary dysmenorrhoea and often develops within 6 to 12 months of your first period.

Secondary dysmenorrhoea is period pain caused by an underlying medical condition such as:

Symptoms of period pain

You might have sharp pain or a dull ache in your lower abdomen. If it lasts just for the first 1 or 2 days of your period it is probably normal. See a doctor if:

  • the pain lasts for longer than 2 days
  • it doesn’t go away when you take the contraceptive pill or painkillers
  • it stops you from doing your normal daily activities
  • the pain gets worse with each period
  • the bleeding is getting heavier
  • you have a fever
  • you have abnormal discharge
  • your periods change
  • you have an intrauterine device (IUD)

Treatment of period pain

There is a range of medicines you can take to help with period pain.

Pain relief medication: Anti-inflammatory medicines like ibuprofen, mefanamic acid or naproxen stop the body from producing prostaglandins. They are available over the counter from a pharmacy but they may not be suitable for everyone so speak to your pharmacist for advice first. You can also take paracetamol for mild cramps. Stronger pain killers containing codeine are only available with a prescription from a doctor.

Other treatments: Some women find that a heat pack, gentle exercise, transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) or acupuncture helps control the pain.

Living with period pain

To help you manage period pain in the longer term, your doctor might prescribe the combined oral contraceptive pill or another hormonal form of contraception such as a vaginal ring, implant or a hormone-releasing intra-uterine device (e.g. Mirena). These reduce the amount of prostaglandins released during your period and make your periods lighter.

You could also consider taking nutritional supplements such as magnesium, vitamin B1 (thiamine), vitamin E, pyridoxine or fish oil.

Quitting smoking and reducing the amount of alcohol you drink may reduce period pain.

It is a good idea to keep a diary of your pain, bleeding and any other symptoms to show your doctor. This will help them diagnose whether there is an underlying medical cause for your period pain.

More information

You can read more about managing period pain at:

Use healthdirect's Question Builder tool to prepare for your doctor’s appointment.

Last reviewed: February 2018

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Found 13 results

Period pain - myDr.com.au

Period pain (also called dysmenorrhoea) is a common problem, and when severe it can stop you from doing your usual activities. However, there are treatments available for painful periods.

Read more on myDr website

Period pain | Jean Hailes

Learn about period pain, what causes period pain, what is ‘normal’ and some possible ways to get relief from period pain.

Read more on Jean Hailes for Women's Health website

Managing period pain | NPS MedicineWise

Period pain is one of the most common health issues for women. Find out which pain relief medicine might be the most effective for you.

Read more on NPS MedicineWise website

Menstruation problems - myDr.com.au

Find out about common menstruation problems: amenorrhoea (absence of periods), dysmenorrhoea (painful periods) and menorrhagia (heavy periods).

Read more on myDr website

Spinal manipulation for painful periods | Cochrane

Painful menstrual periods (dysmenorrhoea) are caused by cramps in the uterus (womb). One of the non-drug options for dysmenorrhoea is spinal manipulation (using the hands to put pressure on certain parts of the back bone). This procedure is sometimes offered by physiotherapists, osteopaths or chiropractors. As dysmenorrhoea may be caused by restricted blood flow, manipulating the lower spine could improve blood flow to the pelvic area. The review of trials found no evidence that spinal manipulation relieves dysmenorrhoea.

Read more on Cochrane (Australasian Centre) website

Menstruation - pain (dysmenorrhoea) - Better Health Channel

Women of any age can experience painful periods and some women find periods are no longer painful after pregnancy and childbirth.

Read more on Better Health Channel website

Von Willebrand Disorder - Haemophilia Foundation Australia

Information about the key issues for living with von Willebrand disease for females. Symptoms include heavy and painful periods. This explains how VWD is treated; how things might change over a lifetime, through puberty, childbirth and menopause; and how to manage health care.

Read more on Haemophilia Foundation Australia website

Parenting and Child Health - Health Topics - Abdominal pain (stomach ache)

Children often complain of stomach ache (pain in the tummy). It can be a sign of illness, but often a child will have pain, but not be unwell.

Read more on Women's and Children's Health Network website

Teen Health - Health Topics - Periods - what to do

Periods are a normal part of a woman's life. Here are some ideas about how to manage some of the things that can worry young women.

Read more on Women's and Children's Health Network website

Pain and Nutrition | myVMC

There is a strong relationship between pain and nutrition. Ongoing pain is associated with major stress on both the mind and the body. By spending a bit of time to prepare proper food and eat healthily, we can help minimise any pain directly, or indirectly through methods such as weight loss.

Read more on myVMC – Virtual Medical Centre website

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice and information you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo
Feedback