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

5-minute read

Key facts

  • Period pain is common and can feel different from person to person.
  • Heat packs, exercise and relaxation may help you manage period pain.
  • Pain relieving medicines, hormonal treatments and other pain relief techniques can help. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist for advice.
  • In some people, period pain is caused by an underlying health condition. Treating the underlying condition can relieve the pain.
  • See your doctor if your pain changes, doesn't respond to treatment or stops you doing your usual activities.

What does period pain feel like?

Period pain , also called dysmenorrhoea, is common. It can prevent some people from doing their normal activities.

People experience period pain differently. It can range from mild to severe. You might feel cramping, aching or heaviness. You might feel it in the lower part of your abdomen, your lower back or your legs.

What causes period pain?

There are 2 types of period pain — primary dysmenorrhoea and secondary dysmenorrhoea.

Primary dysmenorrhoea

This type of period pain can be a normal but uncomfortable part of your menstrual cycle. It is caused by chemicals called prostaglandins, which are naturally made in the lining of your uterus (womb). They trigger contractions of the muscles of your uterus during your period.

If you have this type of pain, you may have higher levels of prostaglandins. This can make your contractions stronger and more painful. This is the most common type of period pain and usually develops within a few years of your first period.

Secondary dysmenorrhoea

This type of period pain is caused by an underlying health condition, such as:

How is period pain treated?

If you have secondary dysmenorrhoea, it’s best to treat the underlying cause.

There is a range of treatments you can try to help with period pain.

Pain relieving medicines

Anti-inflammatory medicines such as ibuprofen, mefenamic acid and naproxen stop your body from producing prostaglandins. They work best if you start taking them as soon as the pain starts, or 48 hours before you expect to get your period. They are available over the counter from a pharmacy. They may not be suitable for everyone, so speak to your pharmacist first to check whether they are safe for you. Remember to take anti-inflammatories with food.

Paracetamol can also help for mild cramps.

Stronger pain relieving medicines containing codeine are only available with a prescription from a doctor.

Hormone treatments

To help you manage period pain in the longer term, your doctor might prescribe the combined oral contraceptive pill or the contraceptive vaginal ring. They may make your periods less painful. Check with your doctor about using them continuously for a few months at a time, so that you get periods less often.

Long acting contraceptives, such as the progestogen implant or hormonal intrauterine device (IUD), can also reduce period pain. Many people who use these find that their periods become lighter or stop.

You can use a hormonal treatment together with pain relieving medicines.

Other pain relief options

Some people find relief from:

When should I see a doctor?

If your pain lasts just for the first 1 or 2 days of your period, goes away with pain relieving medicines and doesn’t stop you doing your usual activities, it is probably normal.

See your doctor if:

  • your pain lasts longer than 2 days
  • your pain doesn’t go away when you take a hormonal contraceptive or pain relieving medicines
  • your pain stops you from doing your normal daily activities
  • it hurts when you pass a bowel motion or have sex
  • you get pain in your pelvic area when you don’t have your period
  • you have pain with an intrauterine device (IUD)
  • you start getting pain when you haven’t had it before, or your usual pain gets worse

It can help to keep a diary of your pain, bleeding and any other symptoms. It can help you tell your doctor about your symptoms. Try this symptom diary.

ASK YOUR DOCTOR — Preparing for an appointment? Use the Question Builder for general tips on what to ask your GP or specialist.

Support and resources

You can read more about managing period pain at:

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: July 2022

Back To Top

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Top results

Period 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

Period pain | Jean Hailes

If period pain is so bad that it interferes with your daily living, or stops you from going to school or work, please see your doctor to discuss it.…

Read more on Jean Hailes for Women's Health website

Period Pain: Symptoms and Treatment -

Period pain is common, 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: self-care -

Period pain can be caused by prostaglandins, produced by the uterus, leading to cramping pain in your lower abdomen and stomach.

Read more on myDr 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 -

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

Read more on myDr website

Different types of period pain and what they might mean | Jean Hailes

Hot water bottle at the ready, painkillers on hand – period pain can be a common and regular part of a woman's monthly cycle.

Read more on Jean Hailes for Women's Health website

Periods | Jean Hailes

Read about the menstrual cycle, periods, heavy bleeding, regular & irregular bleeding, period pain, premenstrual syndrome (PMS), and what help is available

Read more on Jean Hailes for Women's Health website

VWD in females - Haemophilia Foundation Australia

Information about the key issues for living with von Willebrand disease for women and girls. Symptoms in females include heavy and painful periods. This explains how VWD is diagnosed and 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

Pain and the pelvis | Jean Hailes

Persistent pelvic pain, also known as chronic pelvic pain, is a common condition that affects around 15% of women worldwide

Read more on Jean Hailes for Women's Health website

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice 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 and advice

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 Victorian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo

Healthdirect Australia acknowledges the Traditional Owners of Country throughout Australia and their continuing connection to land, sea and community. We pay our respects to the Traditional Owners and to Elders both past and present.