Period cramps are the real deal. Studies show that more than 90% of people with periods experience them. No wonder so many turn to the internet in search of the best muscle relaxer for menstrual cramps.
Period pain is extremely common, but the severity ranges. While most people with periods experience some cramping, at least one in four have pain that requires an intervention. This can include painkillers and over-the-counter drugs, but millions of people are now turning to natural remedies for menstrual cramps.
Don’t confuse "natural" with "less effective". Many of these solutions address period pain at the source, so they’re not just masking symptoms, but addressing the underlying issue. That’s why the best muscle relaxers for menstrual cramps aren’t your everyday painkillers.
What causes menstrual cramps?
You probably know what a period cramp feels like. The most common experience is pain or pressure in your lower abdomen, but pain can also manifest in the hips, thighs, and back.
For some, it’s a whole-body affair, with menstrual cramps triggering nausea, migraines, and gastrointestinal issues.
The medical community calls painful periods dysmenorrhea. This term includes two subgroups: primary dysmenorrhea and secondary dysmenorrhea. Understanding which type of dysmenorrhea you have is important for finding the best muscle relaxer for your menstrual cramps.
This is when menstrual cramps are caused by "normal" uterine muscle contractions alone. These muscle contractions are triggered by chemical compounds called prostaglandins. Prostaglandins build up in the uterus in response to hormonal fluctuations, and tell the uterine muscles to contract. When the muscles do, they can contract so tightly that they cut off blood flow to the uterus. Muscles need blood to function properly; without it, they cramp up and become painful. Some people with dysmenorrhea overproduce prostaglandins, leading to worse cramping.
This is when period pain is caused by something other than your typical uterine muscle contractions. These menstrual cramps may be caused by benign growths (like fibroids or polyps), intrauterine devices (IUDs), endometriosis (where uterus cells grow elsewhere in the body), or other conditions.
Will muscle relaxers help period cramps?
Periods can be idiosyncratic, and what works for one person may not work on another. But we do know people with periods often share certain root causes for their symptoms.
With primary dysmenorrhea, we know that the overproduction of prostaglandins is a key contributor. Fortunately, there’s a growing body of science we can draw from to naturally relieve or even eliminate this type of menstrual cramps.
For secondary dysmenorrhea, solutions can be more complex, and often require your doctor's input. Primary dysmenorrhea is more common, representing up to 90% of cases, but if you suspect your period cramps are caused by something other than the usual muscle contractions, please see your health practitioner.
Best Muscle Relaxers for Menstrual Cramps
There are muscle relaxers, and there are uterine muscle relaxers.
Period cramps happen in the uterus, and the uterus is a muscular organ. But not all products marketed for muscle relaxation will help with period cramps.
Period cramps are different from other muscle cramps you’d get elsewhere in your body. The hormone-driven prostaglandin cascade often requires more than a traditional muscle relaxer.
Sports recovery products
Like sports drinks, powders, and post-workout supplements. In most cases, they’re simply designed to replenish electrolytes like sodium, potassium, and chloride that are lost in sweat during physical activity.
For most people, these electrolytes are healthy for the body, but not so helpful for period cramps. Electrolytes found in sports products have never been studied for dysmenorrhea relief, so we have no evidence to suggest they work.
Joint pain relievers
Like warming creams, gels, and ointments. They're typically marketed for restless legs, joint pain, or muscle soreness in general. They're often described as cooling, warming, or both.
Because these products are applied directly to the skin, they simply mask the pain at the surface. They won’t address the root cause of menstrual cramps, or stop them from happening in the first place. They also may carry an odor, leave a residue on your clothes and sheets, and may require you to reapply often to find relief.
In many cases, natural solutions can be the best muscle relaxers for menstrual cramps. A growing body of science shows nutrients and herbs can alleviate, or even eliminate uterine muscle cramps. Here are your best options:
- Vitamin B1 — A well-research nutrient for period pain. One study of more than 100 women with dysmenorrhea showed that vitamin B1 supplements can reduce the severity of menstrual cramps by half.
- Vitamin B6 — More than 100 of your body's enzymatic processes use Vitamin B6, many of which overlap with the menstrual cycle. It can help regulate hormonal regulation and inflammation, easing many menstrual symptoms.
- Zinc — Research shows that women who supplement with zinc have less period pain. Results are increasingly impressive after consistent use.
- Ginger — Clinical studied have found ginger to be just as effective as over-the-counter painkillers for period cramps, but with fewer side effects.
- Dong Quai — Dong quai has historically been used as a muscle relaxer for menstrual cramps. It may also help regulate flow and the timing of your cycle.
- Magnesium — Magnesium is kind of a menstrual wonder supplement. Several studies also found a specific link between lower magnesium intake and muscle and back pain.
- Fenugreek — Clinical data show fenugreek is just as effective at relieving menstrual cramps as over-the-counter painkillers, but with fewer side effects.
- De Lune — What if you could get a proper dose of all the healing ingredients above in a single, easy-to-use supplement? That's why we made De Lune! Depending on your symptoms, Cramp Aid or Steady Mood can act as an all-natural, research-backed muscle relaxer for menstrual cramps. You can also combine their powers with our Period Rescue Kit. Nutritionist-formulated and doctor-approved, it's our top recommendation.