Periods: A pain in the … back?
Back pain affects 80 percent of people at some point in their lives, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine. But if you’re a woman with a period, back pain might be a monthly occurrence.
But not all women get back pain during their periods. So if you do, is it normal, or could something be wrong?
“It’s very common to have back pain and lower pelvic pain during your period,” says Jennifer Wu, MD, ob-gyn at Lenox Hill Hospital. “This is caused by prostaglandins, which are produced in the uterus, and the uterus contracts as you’re having your menstrual flow.”
Those contractions can lead to the menstrual symptoms women love to hate: cramps and back pain. (Learn more about what causes menstrual cramps here.) If your back, abdominal, or pelvic pain show up right before and during the start of your period, it’s probably related to these hormone-induced contractions.
It’s normal (albeit annoying) to have back pain during your period; however, if back pain or severe cramps show up out of nowhere, you might want to visit your doctor. “Occasionally we’ll have patients who develop it as they get older, and then we worry about secondary causes of this back pain,” says Dr. Wu. A common example of a secondary cause is endometriosis.
“When patients have constant pain throughout their cycle, then we’re more worried about something else—maybe a fibroid or another problem that may not be related to their cycle,” says Dr. Wu.
If you have run-of-the-mill back pain during your period, you can soothe the pain with OTC pain relievers, just like with cramps. (Here are other home remedies for menstrual cramps.)
Certain birth control methods—like the Pill or IUD—can also help reduce some symptoms caused by your period, including back pain. Talk to your doctor about BC options or different types of painkillers to find which one is right for you.
Back pain. Washington, DC: U.S. National Library of Medicine. (Accessed on March 29, 2018 at https://medlineplus.gov/backpain.html.)
Dysmenorrhea: painful periods. Washington, DC: American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, 2015. (Accessed on March 29, 2018 at https://www.acog.org/Patients/FAQs/Dysmenorrhea-Painful-Periods#start.)
Period pain: overview. Washington, DC: U.S. National Library of Medicine, 2016. (Accessed on March 29, 2018 at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0072508/.)
What can I do about cramps and PMS? New York, NY: Planned Parenthood. (Accessed on March 29, 2018 at https://www.plannedparenthood.org/learn/health-and-wellness/menstruation/what-can-i-do-about-cramps-and-pms.)