What is a Normal Period?

Periods are more than just a monthly inconvenience. They’re an essential piece to your overall health! Most women are led to believe that the horrible cramps and intense mood swings are all part of a normal period, but we’re here to tell you that they aren’t. Even better, there’s something you can do to make your periods healthier and less painful! Not sure if you know what is a normal period? Keep reading to find out!

What ‘Normal’ Looks Like

If your menstrual cycle doesn’t fit the ‘normal’ range, then it’s time to hone in on your period health! Many of the symptoms that are the most interruptive to daily life like PMS, cramps, low back pain, and fatigue can be resolved with changes to diet, lifestyle habits, and pelvic floor PT!

NORMAL


Length of Cycle

Days of Bleeding

Heaviness of Bleeding

PMS Symptoms

Pain

Daily Life

24-35 Days

3-7 Days

<10 fully soaked tampons over the course of your period

Not normal!

Mild abdominal discomfort is normal, but you should NOT need any medications to help manage pain.

Symptoms should not interfere with your ability to do daily tasks at school or work.


Tight Pelvic Floor Muscles

One of the biggest causes we see for heavy cramping, low back pain, and increased pelvic pain is tightness in the pelvic floor muscles and the surrounding fascia. Tightness in the pelvic floor muscles will cause trigger points and referred pain to the low back, especially in the days leading up to your period. Tight muscles and fascia also restricts the blood flow to the organs and muscles which leads to more pain and inflammation in the area. When the uterus isn’t receiving enough blood flow, it has to cramp more intensely to bring sufficient blood flow as the uterus begins to shed its lining. 

The good news is that manual releases performed to the pelvic floor, abdomen, and reproductive organ by a specialized physical therapist can improve period health by increasing the amount of blood flow in the area. If the uterus and other reproductive organs have more blood flow, less cramping is required and the organs will be able to function better. This will also help restore better mobility to the pelvic floor muscles, getting rid of that pesky low back pain that can accompany your cramps.

 

Nutrition

Another big reason for painful and irregular periods is diet! Many things in the typical American diet are inflammatory to the whole body and leave your body deficient in important nutrients. Some of the main culprits are:

  • Dairy  
  • Alcohol
  • Gluten
  • Added Sugar

Increased amounts of these inflammatory triggers in your day to day diet can cause chronic inflammation and a build up of something called Prostaglandins. High levels of prostaglandins (aka inflammation)have been linked to more severe pain during periods(5). By limiting the amount of these inflammatory foods and beverages in your diet over the entire month, you can keep inflammation levels low. This will ultimately help you feel your best all month long!

Nutrient deficiencies are also at play when it comes to period health especially with PMS symptoms! Zinc, Magnesium, Iron, Selenium, and Vitamin E are just a few of the key nutrients for reproductive health. Using seed cycling or supplements can help boost the nutritional gaps and decrease PMS symptoms such as mood swings, acne, and fatigue(3,4). 

Lifestyle Habits

Exercise and sleep are very important when it comes to managing stress and inflammation in your body! Regular movement and exercise(especially right around your period) helps improve blood flow to all the reproductive organs and pelvic floor muscles. This can decrease cramping as well as clear out build up of inflammatory cells in the pelvic area. Sleep gives your body time to rest and recover from stressors like exercise and emotional stress. Without a good night’s sleep, your body can’t recover and will stay in a chronic state of inflammation. 

Try to maintain an active lifestyle and get at least 30 minutes of light to moderate intensity cardio in 5x/week (yes, even while you’re on your period!). It will also be important to manage your sleep hygiene! This means avoiding blue light(aka screens) before bed, having a sleep schedule, and optimizing your sleep environment to give your body the best opportunity possible to recover each night!

If period pain and PMS is interfering with your daily life, it’s time to reach out to a women’s health physical therapy expert. Working with a women’s health physical therapist can help with menstrual pain and provide strategies to manage period pain through manual therapy, exercise, nutrient recommendations and reducing your body’s level of inflammation. Email us at contact@revitalize-pt.com or DM us on social media to book your Evaluation today!

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Sources:

Briden, Lara. Period Repair Manual. Macmillan Australia, 2018.

https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/10132-normal-menstruation (picture)

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK279054/

(3)Eby GA. Zinc treatment prevents dysmenorrhea. Med Hypotheses. 2007;69(2):297-301. doi: 10.1016/j.mehy.2006.12.009. Epub 2007 Feb 7. PMID: 17289285.

(4)Jafari F, Amani R, Tarrahi MJ. Effect of Zinc Supplementation on Physical and Psychological Symptoms, Biomarkers of Inflammation, Oxidative Stress, and Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor in Young Women with Premenstrual Syndrome: a Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Trial. Biol Trace Elem Res. 2020 Mar;194(1):89-95. doi: 10.1007/s12011-019-01757-9. Epub 2019 Jun 2. PMID: 31154571.

(5)https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/menstrual-cramps/symptoms-causes/syc-20374938#:~:text=During%20your%20menstrual%20period%2C%20your,with%20more%2Dsevere%20menstrual%20cramps.