Written by Physical Therapist and Flourish Heights Contributor, Rachel Louissaint, DPT
That time of the month isn’t always the greatest experience for menstruating folks. For some, period pain is the worst part. It might feel like someone is doing choreography on top of your uterus. Well, something like that. Is this you? If you are looking to add something new to your pain relief regimen, keep reading. It may help.
One great underutilized pain relief modality is exercise. If you are new to this, here are a few benefits worth noting. Participating in low intensity exercises on your period may:
- Increase endorphins to help improve mood and increase energy.
- Help burn prostaglandins (chemical released that initiates muscle contractions) faster.
- Work as an analgesic for natural pain relief.
- Decrease side effects of PMS.
In general it’s best to focus on gentle movements and exercises, including lower intensity workouts. There are times throughout the menstrual cycle where certain types of exercises are more beneficial than others. When it comes to dealing with menstrual pain whether its cramps, back pain or tightness, exercises and stretches can be very beneficial in relieving tension in the muscles that are often tight or weak. Here are 5 exercises to try:
- Bridges: While lying on your back with your legs bent and feet shoulder width apart, squeeze your glutes and lift your hips up off the floor. You want to maintain a glute contraction as you lift and lower your hips. If you feel recruitment from your hamstrings or lower back please reassess your form. This exercise is very commonly used in exercise programs mainly because of the gentle nature of the exercise while still strengthening one of our powerhouse muscles, glutes.
- Planks: Starting off on your elbows with your toes tucked under, lift your body into a plank position and hold. For beginners, I advise starting out holding a plank for 10 secs and performing it 10 times. As you get stronger you can try holding your plank for longer with less reps. This exercise helps to promote core strength and spinal stability. One of the reasons why I love planks is because you get the benefit of a core exercise without having to move into either flexion or extension.
- Side Lying Hip Abduction: Begin by lying on your side. You can bend the bottom leg for stability. Lift your top leg up to about waist height and slowly lower down. This exercise is mainly to work the gluteus medius which is a prime stabilizer.
- Alternating Leg Lifts: Begin in a supine position with one leg 90 degrees in the air and the other leg straight over the floor. Hold the position for a 3 second count while holding your core tight, then switch legs.
- Heel Taps: Start by lying on your back with your legs in a 90/90 position. You want to check to make sure that your knees are stacked over your hips. While maintaining a deep core contraction, slowly lower one of your legs and tap your heel on the floor and return to the starting position. This exercise is great for core stability and control, and as we know a strong core is helpful with decreasing menstrual pain.
Each of these exercises can be performed for 3 sets, 10 reps each. Performing these low impact exercises will hopefully help to give you some pain relief and decrease overall tension. Studies also show that performing low impact aerobic exercise for 30-45 minutes can also be beneficial in decreasing cramps and pain. With all these tools we can be better equipped to handle those dreaded couple of days.
Have you tried any of these? Share in the comments.