Painful menstruation is difficult to treat, not because the disorder will not yield to therapy, but because women have about the worst record of noncompliance to medical counsel with this disorder that with any other. The reason for noncompliance will become obvious as the causes of dysmenorrhea are discussed.
One important cause of dysmenorrhea is that of wearing improper clothing. Tight bands around the waist, hips, or thighs impede the circulation to the pelvic organs and increase the likelihood of painful menstruation. Also, the clothing of the extremities must be proper. There should not be one inch of chilled skin on the extremities any time during the month, not only during the menstrual period itself. The extremities should be covered with as many layers of clothing as is the trunk. To fail to do so is to cause the circulation to be imbalanced, and increases the likelihood of pelvic congestion and painful menstruation.
Most American women do not get sufficient exercise; this fact is second only to improper clothing in the causation of dysmenorrhea. A study showed that 75% of a group of 5,000 junior high school girls were either cured or had definite improvement of menstrual discomfort with simple bending and stretching exercises. The first exercise was stretching, done by touching the fingers to the ankles with the knees held straight. The second exercise was thrusting the leg backward as the arms were swung high over the head. These two exercises performed 4-10 times daily, four times weekly for several weeks resulted in a 75% improvement rate. In our experience, one hour of useful vigorous labor out-of-doors daily has been more effective in curing dysmenorrhea than have calisthenics.
Posture is also important as a cure for painful menstruation, as reported in Archives of Surgery 46:611-613, May, 1943. The contracted ligaments give rise to compression of the nerves which increases the symptoms of painful menstruation.
Dietary measures can be of great benefit, particularly since many of the things that irritate the gastrointestinal tract reflexively irritate the genitourinary tract. All irritants in the gastrointestinal tract such as spices, alcohol, aspirin, other drugs, hot pepper, vinegar, overeating, failure to chew properly, and any other matter known to irritate the gastrointestinal tract should be eliminated. Constipation should be corrected, particularly just prior to the onset of the menstrual period.
Rest and regularity are mandatory for the sufferer from dysmenorrhea. After the age of 20, eight hours of sleep or bed rest daily should be obtained. From childhood a pattern of regular bedtime and rising time without weekend or seasonal variation is the ideal order of life. Such a person rarely has difficulty with relaxing or sleeping. Regularity in all things is essential. At least one bowel movement daily is ideal, two or more bowel movements being preferred. Fruits, vegetables, and whole grains are helpful in maintaining good bowel health. The avoidance of oil is advisable, particularly, since oil tends to cause red blood cell clumping, creating circulatory problems through the rich meshwork of tiny capillaries found in the reproductive organs. Fats also alter the platelet function of the blood, causing clotting of the blood to be improper, a condition which may lead to painful menstruation.
One should develop a good emotional outlook. A mature, vigorous, and healthy adult should be able to cope with any problems that are presented to her during a 24-hour day. With Divine aid and sympathetic understand of family and friends, the individual should have the emotional equilibrium to cope with all of life's trials.
When the painful menstruation occurs, a "hot half bath" in a bathtub, or a hot foot bath up to the upper portions of the calf muscles using a deep bucket, tub or trash can will very often provide complete relief. Warm or hot water as determined by experimentation are both acceptable for the hot water baths.
The majority of this content is taken from Dr. Agatha Thrash of Uchee Pines Institute, printed with permission by Wildwood Inn Health Retreat.