I’m afraid I have not such good news for those who suffer from the miseries. There are medical treatments available, but they are not anywhere near so widely available as the Pill, and you are not so likely to be able to get them through your GP. Luckily this is now starting to improve.
Diuretics-Some GPS try to relieve the bloat by giving their patients diuretics but they admit that diuretics don’t have any effect at all on any of the other symptoms like depression, fatigue, headaches or pain.
And because they are an artificial way of making your kidneys excrete more, they can also force them to excrete too much potassium, which has a bad effect. So they need to be used with some care, but not too often and always under medical supervision.
Tranquillizers-Some GPS prescribe tranquillizers for period pain and pmt. Although they might make you feel less anxious they can’t relieve any of the other symptoms. They certainly shouldn’t be taken unless they’re absolutely necessary because they, in their turn, will upset the hormone balance of your body. And if it’s the hormone balance of your body that is at fault, you will not want to upset it any further.
By now I hope you will have found that you can use at least some of the tricks and techniques I have been describing to make your periods easier. With luck and persistence you may have found exactly the right blend and won’t be suffering every month. Good! Or if, in your particular case, this hasn’t been your experience, at least you should be feeling that you are on your way to an improvement, watching your periods get easier and easier month by month. The likelihood is that you will have learnt how to cope with your particular stresses and although you’ll probably have recognized that your periods are rarely going to be entirely painfree, at least by now they’ll be relatively easy to manage.
I know that there is bound to be a minority who will go on suffering from far too much pain from the cramps, or far too much discomfort from the aching miseries. It’s also for anyone who’s recognized that an attack of epilepsy, asthma, cystitis, migraine or hay fever may be linked to an approaching period. And for any woman who is afraid that a violent mood swing could be the final straw that could lead her to batter her child.
If your feet are cold and your legs chilled, the pain is often worse. A good pair of trousers, warm boots, or a thick skirt and two petticoats are good investments. I’m well aware there are still employers and headmasters who lay down rules about clothes. Some actually ban girls wearing trousers; others take exception to boots. We have a long way to go before we win the freedom to wear whatever is most suitable and practical.
Helpful foods-Oranges, bananas and tomatoes are particularly useful around the time of your period because they help replace the potassium your body may have lost if you have been taking diuretics to help get rid of the bloat. And if you feel tired or giddy it’s a good idea to have a small stock of sugary foods handy, like glucose tablets, boiled sweets, barley sugar or grapes. Things to keep clear of are those tempting salty snacks like crisps or salted peanuts. They encourage your body to retain water and give you a thirst. If you drink more fluid than you need you are far more likely to get waterlogged. Incidentally, if you suffer from the bloat, drinking black coffee could help because it is a mild diuretic.
No matter what difficulties you suffer when you’re having your period, there are plenty of steps you can take to make life as pleasant as possible.
Clean is comfortable-It seems much too obvious to mention, but you won’t be comfortable unless you wash regularly and change sanitary towels or tampons whenever necessary.
This can be a problem, particularly if you’re at work; how nice it would be if there were a bidet in the women’s lavatory in every work place. As it is, the best we can do is to carry a supply of towels or tampons with us and change them whenever we need to, which could be anything from two to five times during a working day, depending on how much blood we lose and how long our day happens to be.
I’m often asked how much blood women ought to lose and what colour it ought to be. We vary in this. Some women lose very little — just enough to stain two towels a day — especially when they first start their periods. Others lose quite a lot, especially on the first day when they can get through half a packet of towels. Some blood is quite red; some is quite brown. Don’t be alarmed by either colour. They’re both normal; just be sure that you don’t wear the same towel or tampon all day long.
Bending over beds, heaving a vacuum cleaner around, dusting in corners and standing cooking in the kitchen are all ingredients that add up to a recipe for increased risk of back strain and other muscle pain.
It’s easy to mistreat your body as you give the carpet a clean -twisting from the waist to get the vacuum cleaner into position can harm the back and strain the arms. Keep the handle close to your body and use the machine’s wheels to move it around.
Beds are usually designed for the benefit of the sleeper, not the one who has to change the sheets. To make changing bed linen safer, don’t lean over to the other side to tuck sheets in, but go round to do it. Similarly, pictures are designed to be looked at, not cleaned; floors to be trodden on, not bent down to for cleaning. But a long-handled duster and brooms used with an upright back, with the handle held close to the body, will help you avoid strains.
The height of work surfaces such as ironing-boards and kitchen units is also important to avoid uncomfortable bending. The most efficient height is usually 2-4 inches below elbow height. In fact, ironing is often best done sitting down, with the chair close to the board.
Sports injuries are mainly caused by contact with another person, an object, or through overuse of muscles. Obviously, not all such risks can be avoided – you can’t foresee a collision on the pitch or a fall on the track – but they can be minimised.
Getting the body ready for exercise is just as important whether you play sport every day or once a month. It’s particularly important for older people and those not used to exercising. If you are unused to exercise, a visit to your doctor before you start is always a good idea. Gently warm up for five to ten minutes to improve muscle flexibility. Before going on an energetic sporting holiday, such as skiing, start your exercise programme about six weeks beforehand. It’s also important to ease your body back down after activity, first with mild physical exercise, then gentle stretching exercises to help prevent muscle stiffness. Changing into warm clothing stops the body getting chilled.
Clothes and equipment should be chosen with care: shoes must fit properly and be correct for the purpose; clothes should be appropriate, and your racket, bike or clubs should be of the right size for your height and weight.
Two lesser known but at times extremely successful methods of easing pain also worth considering are:
Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS).
This method works somewhat on the same principle that makes pain diminish when you rub an injured area. However, instead of rubbing the painful spot, the TENS unit – a small battery-powered electronic unit you can clip to your belt or carry in a pocket – sends small electrical impulses to conductive pads placed near where it hurts. The electrical impulses are transmitted through the pads to the local nerve endings and reduce the capacity of the nerves to transmit pain signals to the receptors in the brain, so effectively reducing your perception of the pain. Note, however, that although TENS treatment can lessen pain it does not cure the underlying condition responsible for it.
While TENS units are potentially available for loan to suitable patients under the NHS, they are usually in very short supply. You can, however, also buy a unit yourself (no prescription is needed) and one well-established supplier of these is Dezac Ltd, 54 Bath Road, Cheltenham, Glos GL53 7HG (Tel: 01242 583502), whose Rio TENS unit offers both variable intensity control and six different treatment programmes.
Using treatments that are extremely similar in many ways to those employed by osteopaths, chiropractic techniques are particularly successful in treating low back pain, slipped discs and sports injuries.
A well-established health care system that originated in America, chiropractic’s underlying principle is that a patient’s overall state of health will be greatly governed by how comfortably and easily the various parts of his body move, naturally paying special attention to the back and the neck.
In general, chiropractors are more likely to use more vigorous techniques than osteopaths when freeing ’stuck joints’ through manipulation.
This works broadly on the same principles as acupuncture, but the essential difference between the two is that in acupressure the various points on the patient’s body are stimulated by the practitioner’s finger or thumb instead of by the insertion of needles. One major advantage of this approach is that a patient (or a relative or friend) can perhaps be taught to perform the treatment and therefore it can be repeated as often as required at home. Most practitioners of acupuncture also offer acupressure therapy because some patients cannot face the idea of having needles stuck into them.
The word ’sciatica’ derives from the term sciatic nerve. Sciatic pain is a very specific kind of referred pain, one that is experienced at one or more places along the course of the sciatic nerve, which is the major nerve of the leg (and, incidentally, the nerve with the largest diameter in the human body). The sciatic nerve – one for each leg, of course – starts at the lower end of the spine and continues down behind the thigh. Directly above the knee joint, the sciatic nerve divides into two main branches – the tibial and common peroneal nerves – one branch travelling down the shin to the big toe, and the other running down the back of the calf to the heel before it winds around to the front of the foot and then extends into the toes.
The above is, of course, but a simplified description of the sciatic nerves; if you were to look in Gray’s Anatomy, the classic volume that still remains a standard medical reference nearly 150 years after it was first published, you’d find that more than four pages of small type are devoted to listing all the intricate sub-divisions of these nerves. While little purpose would be served by going into all this detail, it is important to note that almost any part of the leg can be affected by sciatic pain.