Applying heat to the tummy to ease menstrual cramps is advice women have passed down through the generations – and for good reason. We always said to one another, "It's one of the best ways to stop menstrual cramps fast", and now, there's proof!
Why does a hot water bottle help period pain
Scientists at University College London found that heat treatment works by blocking pain messages to the brain and that placing something warm on the skin can get rid of abdominal pain in a similar way to painkillers for up to an hour (1). So it's not just in our minds then.
When presenting his findings to the Physiological Society's annual conference, Dr. Brian King stated, "The heat doesn't just provide comfort and have a placebo effect – it actually deactivates the pain at a molecular level in much the same way as pharmaceutical painkillers work. We have discovered how this molecular process works." (1)
These same scientists found that if warmth over 40 degrees Celsius is applied to the skin near to where internal pain is felt, it switches on heat receptors at the site of injury. These heat receptors, in turn, block the effect of chemical messengers that cause pain to be detected by the body.
How to stop period cramps
Lying down and using a hot water bottle can be really helpful to stop period pain, but most of the time you're out of the house or in the office when cramps and pain can strike. Luckily, there are many over the counter, convenient 'on-the-go' period pain heating pads or hot compresses available at drug stores and online that can easily be used under your clothes at work or throughout the day. One of the best heating pads and one of our favourite home remedies to relieve period pain fast, is the MenstruHeat Heating Pad for Period Pain and Menstrual Cramp Relief.
The best foods that make period cramps better
It's said that a good dose of magnesium helps to calm mood swings and relax cramping muscles, especially when you're on your period (2). There are a number of foods that pack in this mineral, known as 'Mother Nature's Relaxant', available for you to munch on to help you get rid of period pain fast at home. The list of foods that help period pain and cramps include:
• Brazil nuts
• Pumpkin seeds
• Whole grains
• Dried fruit
• Dark chocolate
• Dark leafy greens
How to get rid of period cramps fast without medicine
These alternative home remedies and practices to help ease period pain naturally follow in the footsteps of hot water bottles as they include heat and warming up your body, similar to an Ayurvedic practice.
Keeping active during your period can reduce pain – specifically, practicing yoga, even hot yoga. A study conducted in 2016 found that yoga helped alleviate period pain and cramps and boosted your energy during that time of the month as it helped to decrease breast tenderness and abdominal swelling and warmed up your body (3).
A study from 2012 found that aromatherapy massages involving certain essential oils helped curb period pain fast, so why not treat yourself by booking an hour slot at your local spa for a hot stone massage to warm your body right up or even at home? (4)
3. Warm baths
Lastly, one of the best of many home remedies that can help to reduce stomach pain during periods instantly is an indulgent bath. The hot water acts in a similar way to the application of a hot water bottle, helping to deactivate the pain. Try adding some Epsom Salts to top up on your magnesium levels and even a drop or two of your favourite essential oil to help relax your muscles.
Knowing the science behind some of your favourite home remedies to alleviate pain caused by your period is sure to bring you peace of mind. The fact that it's not just a placebo effect really does make using a hot water bottle to relieve muscle cramps all the better, don't you agree?
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1. University College London: https://www.ucl.ac.uk/media/library/heatandpain
2. National Institute of Health: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5452159/
3. US National Library of Medicine: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4962262/
4. National Institute of Health: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22435409