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Ask the Medical Expert Archives 2000-2004

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Menstrual Cramps
February 2000

Q. What can I do for menstrual cramps?

A. Menstrual cramps cause significant problems for a lot of women. A web site that contains useful non-medicinal approaches to menstrual cramps is at http://www.learn2.com/07/0752/0752.php3

There are medicines that can also be tried. The most common used now are non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). While in the past these were all presciption mediciations, you can buy many of them over the counter. Common OTC NSAIDs are ibuprofen (e.g., Advil) and naproxen sodium (e.g., Alleve).

The key is to take the medicine starting a couple of days before the period. This is because the medication inhibits the enzyme that causes the pain, but it takes a few days to start to work. You continue the medication for the first few days of the menses. Birth control pills can also be used to prevent the pain.

If the pain persists or is associated with heavy bleeding or clotting, you should see your doctor.

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