When it’s that time of the month, women don’t just have to endure bleeding for anywhere from three days to up to a week. A variety of symptoms tag along, such as cramps, headaches, and bloating.
One of the most common ones — and probably even the worst of all of them — is lower back pain. It’s the type of pain that makes standing up straight difficult; it almost feels as if something is pulling you closer to the ground. As such, it can be debilitating and prevent you from going about your day as usual. Most of the time, though, it makes women only mildly uncomfortable.
Why Do Women Even Feel Lower Back Pain?
As always, the answer to anything related to women’s health happens to be in hormones. Lower back pain is a sign of hormonal changes. It is a muscular type of pain, given the uterine muscles have to contract in order to produce it.
How does it all happen? A woman’s uterus has a tissue lining that actually produces chemicals called prostaglandins. These lipid compounds are the main reason there are any symptoms of menstrual discomfort at all. In essence, they trigger the contractions in the uterine muscles that make the uterine lining shed. When the muscles contract, they cause pain in the lower abdomen, which then goes all the way up to the lower back.
The higher the levels of these chemicals, the more severe the pain. Still, they don’t just make the muscles contract. They are also the main reason some women vomit or have headaches when on their period. What’s more, those chemicals may even cause diarrhea.
When Does Back Pain Start?
Lower back pain is one of the many physical PMS symptoms a woman can experience. As such, it may start around the 14th day of the menstrual cycle. Unfortunately, it can also last very long — up to a week after the period starts.
Could It Be an Early Sign of Pregnancy?
As many women already know, some PMS symptoms can coincide with early pregnancy symptoms — and lower back pain is one of them.
If you’re actually pregnant, you may start to feel pain in your lower back around the fourth week. That is when your ligaments will start to soften up and stretch to prepare you for pregnancy and labor. In essence, the pregnancy is straining your pelvic and lower back joints, so pain is somewhat inevitable.
The lower back pain can continue throughout the pregnancy, and it may be accompanied by other symptoms, of course. In general, the most common pregnancy symptoms include:
- light vaginal bleeding (spotting)
- tender breasts
If you’re experiencing an ectopic pregnancy, know that lower back pain is one of the major symptoms. Ectopic pregnancy means that the fertilized egg has attached itself someplace else. In case of a normal pregnancy, it would go inside the uterus and find a nice place to grow there.
Other symptoms of ectopic pregnancy include:
- Abdominal bleeding and cramps
- Shoulder pain
- Nausea and sore breasts (common pregnancy symptoms)
Post-Period Back Pain and Cramps
Even after your period ends, you may feel some back pain and cramping. More often than not, the main cause of those symptoms is either one of the following:
Half-way through the menstrual cycle, ovulation occurs, and with that, you may feel some cramping when your ovary releases an egg. In most cases, the pain doesn’t last long — usually up to two days. Still, it can be a bit uncomfortable; if you find it unbearable, you can treat it with some heat pads.
Even though it’s sudden, ovulation pain often goes away on its own.
In healthy women, the uterine cavity is lined with tissue that later on sheds, causing menstruation. Yet, sometimes, the same cells that make up the tissue can start growing on other parts, such as the fallopian tubes, ovaries, outer surface of the uterus, etc. That’s called endometriosis, a painful condition whose two most common symptoms are infertility and pelvic pain.
Apart from those, the condition can also cause severe lower back pain that seems as if it will never end. It may appear before the period, last throughout its length, and even continue after it ends.
It comes with a variety of other symptoms:
- Bowel movement pain
- Urination pain
- Coital and post-coital pain
- Excessive bleeding during periods or between them.
Endometriosis doesn’t have a cure. The symptoms may be alleviated with pain medication, hormonal therapy, or surgery.
Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID)
PID is a bacterial infection of the female reproductive organs. Besides lower back pain, its symptoms include:
- Heavy or abnormal vaginal discharge
- Fever with chills
- Unusual vaginal bleeding
- Coital pain or bleeding
- Bowel discomfort
- Urination pain and difficulties
The most common course of treatment includes abstinence (at least for a while) and antibiotics.
Sometimes, benign tumors may cover the uterine wall and cause immense discomfort. Besides lower back pain, uterine fibroids are associated with:
- Constipation and diarrhea
- Nausea and headaches
- Heavy or prolonged periods
- Irregular bleeding
- Abdominal cramps
- Back pain during menstruation
- Pain in ligaments (legs)
- Frequent urination or urination difficulties
Treatment includes medication and surgery, as well as a range of minimally invasive and non-invasive procedures.
Often treated with medicines or surgery, cervical stenosis happens in women who have a small cervical opening. That prevents the blood from flowing properly, which puts the uterus under additional pressure and leads to back pain and period cramps.
Adenomyosis occurs when the tissue lining the uterus (endometrium) breaks through and starts growing into the myometrium, the uterus’ muscle wall. Although not life-threatening, the condition can affect the quality of the woman’s life. Symptoms include:
- Heavy or prolonged periods
- Coital pain
- Blood clots during periods
Usually, it can be treated with medicines, but if it’s serious, hysterectomy may be the only option a woman has.
Managing Lower Back Pain: What Can You Do?
In case of lower back pain, there are plenty of things you can do to ease it:
- Avoid alcohol, smoking, and taking in too much coffee and salt. Instead, drink as much water as you can.
- Eat a healthy diet and increase your physical activity. Walking, swimming, and cycling are mild enough not to cause you any additional pain.
Medication and Supplements
- Take magnesium and vitamin B supplements.
- Take painkillers, such as ibuprofen, acetaminophen, or naproxen sodium, a few days before the period starts.
- Ask your doctor to prescribe stronger analgesics if the pain doesn’t subside.
- Get birth control. An oral contraceptive pill may regulate your period, reducing cramps and back pain at the same time.
Heat Treatments, Massage, and Relaxing Exercise
- Yoga and pilates can not only help you relax but also make you forget about the pain and discomfort.
- Massaging your lower back and stomach may help reduce the pain. Just make sure you’re gentle, as anything too harsh could make the pain worse.
- Heat is sometimes the best option. In order to relax a bit and reduce the pain, take a warm bath or shower. You could also get a heating pad or fill a bottle with some hot water.