If you have ever had a period, chances are you have also experienced menstrual cramps at some level. In fact, about 3 in 4 people report experiencing cramps before or during their period. However, the commonality of menstrual cramps can sometimes lead to confusion. Different kinds of pelvic pain, that can feel very similar to menstrual cramps, may be occurring because of conditions other than one’s cycle. If you’ve experienced cramps outside of your cycle, know that there are many different reasons you may be feeling pelvic pain. It’s important to know that there are many different reasons you may be having pelvic pain. Here are a few reasons to be familiar with.
It’s possible that the cramps or pelvic pain you are experiencing is being caused by endometriosis. Endometriosis is a common condition, impacting 1 in 10 women in the United States. Endometriosis occurs when one’s uterine lining tissue grows outside of the uterus, becoming inflamed. Although common, endometriosis has a variety of different causes and ultimately impacts women experiencing the condition very differently. To be able to self-advocate and get the treatment you deserve, it’s important to be aware of the many symptoms of endometriosis, including pelvic pain.
Identifying Endometriosis Pain
Although pelvic pain caused by endometriosis feels very similar to menstrual cramps, the key difference to be aware of is endometriosis pelvic pain will happen at any time, not just during one’s cycle. Endometriosis may cause more pain than just pelvic pain, such as cramping in the lower back and stomach, just below the belly button. Other symptoms to watch for include painful bowel movements or feeling pain during intercourse.
How to Tell the Difference Between Period Cramps and Endometriosis
Pelvic pain caused by endometriosis will show up much more often and much earlier than typical menstrual cramps. Not only does it show up earlier, it will last for days after one’s period ends. Endometriosis pain does not pair with other PMS symptoms, such as mood swings, breast tenderness or acne. If you are experiencing pelvic pain before or after your period, without experiencing your body’s common PMS symptoms, there’s a chance your pelvic pain and cramps are due to endometriosis, not your menstrual cycle. The good news is the Kaldas Center is here to help. If these symptoms sound familiar, and you think you may be suffering from endometriosis, the Kaldas Center is here to provide you personalized pain management and treatment options.
Are your cramps and pelvic pain paired with very irregular periods, or possibly no period at all? This may be a sign of PCOS, polycystic ovarian syndrome. PCOS is a genetic hormonal disorder which affects 10% of women ages 15-44. Women with PCOS have high levels of androgens (a male hormone) and low levels of estrogen (a female hormone). PCOS often causes missed or irregular periods. Another common symptom of PCOS is pelvic pain, which can easily be confused with menstrual cramps.
Identifying PCOS Pain
Hormone imbalances caused by PCOS can make periods painful and lead to cramping and bloating. However, PCOS also causes periods to be irregular, so one may experience the painful cramping without actually bleeding, which may lead to confusion. However, there are other ways to identify PCOS, including symptoms of weight gain, hair loss on the head, excessive hair growth on the body and acne. If you are experiencing cramping without bleeding in addition to any of these other PCOS symptoms, it’s advisable to seek medical advice, and the Kaldas Center is here to help.
Other Common Causes of Pelvic Pain
Endometriosis and PCOS are just two of many causes of pelvic pain. Other common causes include pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or appendicitis, to name a few.
Pelvic Inflammatory Disease
Pelvic Inflammatory Disease, also known as PID, is an infection of the uterus, fallopian tubes or ovaries caused by sexually transmitted bacteria that has been spread to one’s reproductive organs. Cramping is a common symptom of PID. This serious pelvic infection can also lead to pelvic pain and even infertility; It is important to get regular sexually transmitted infection (STI) checks to ensure you’re not a carrier of damaging STIs.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome
While the exact cause is unknown, IBS is thought to be due to one’s immune system responding incorrectly to triggers that cause inflammation. While IBS causes cramping and pain, the level of severity differs. If you are experiencing cramping without a period along with other GI symptoms such as chronic diarrhea, weight loss or excess gas, you should see your primary care physician and ask to be referred to a gastroenterologist.
Experiencing cramps that come on fast and worsen when you cough, sneeze or even walk? You may be experiencing appendicitis. Blockage inside of the appendix can lead to infection and sharp stomach pains in the lower part of the abdomen. If you are experiencing these sharp pains, along with nausea and vomiting, you should see a doctor or head to the ER as soon as possible.
You May Just Need a Slight Lifestyle Change
Aside from the laundry list of conditions that may be causing cramping, it’s also important to know that there are reasons for cramping while not on your cycle that are completely normal and can be resolved without medical treatment.
Stress is a common reason for missed periods, but still may leave you feeling crampy. From just a stressful day at work to dealing with a personal crisis, any amount of stress can cause periods to go awry. The first step is identifying the stress you are dealing with. There are many different ways to help control stress, including talking with a loved one, exercise, meditation, therapy or prescribed medications. Improving stress levels will help you get your period back on track, and cramps under control.
Exercising Too Much
Stepping up your fitness game? Working out too hard or often can mess up your cycle and cause abnormal fluctuations in hormone levels, which can lead to PMS like symptoms (i.e. cramps) and missed periods. If an increase in exercise has caused you to miss your period for three or more cycles, it’s important to talk with your doctor or reach out to the Kaldas Center.
Upper belly stomach cramps may be caused by indigestion. While it’s not a sign of a serious health problem, you may want to slow down eating and avoid lying down directly after a meal to help control the pain.
Should I Seek Medical Attention?
As we have learned, there is a wide range of reasons someone may be experiencing menstrual-like cramps without a period. If you start to experience any of the following symptoms along with cramps, you should seek medical attention:
- Sudden, severe or worsening abdominal or pelvic pain
- Pain in the chest, arms, neck or jaw
- Frequent vomiting
- High fever
- Blood in stool
- Shortness of breath
- Unexplained weight loss or gain
Don’t Live in Pain, the Kaldas Center is Here to Help
We are here to provide you with support and help you find answers to the pain you are experiencing. If something seems abnormal, trust your gut. We know finding answers can be frustrating – but don’t give up. As we’ve mentioned, there are a wide variety of reasons someone may be experiencing cramping without a period. Don’t assume the pain is normal or something you should have to live with, get the help you deserve. Call the Kaldas Center at 920-886-2299 and let’s make a plan to manage your pain.