Why It's Time to Stop Popping OTC Painkillers for Period Cramps
Posted by Courtney Mayszak, RDN, LDN
Jun 11, 2021
Still popping over-the-counter painkillers for period cramps? Let’s rethink that.
Painkillers were never designed for period cramps, and they may cause more health problems than they fix.
We’re convinced that over-the-counter painkillers are the default remedy for period pain only because no one bothered to make something better. We’re calling out this injustice to people who menstruate.
This article explains why painkillers are an outdated solution to period pain, and why it’s time to usher in a healthier option everyone can feel good about taking every month.
Painkillers don’t make sense for period cramps.
We don’t hate painkillers. We’re just disappointed.
Painkillers are useful for random, one-off bouts of pain, like the occasional toothache or pulled muscle. The problem? Period pain isn’t random or one-off. It’s a recurring, monthly phenomenon.
Most of us will have a menstrual cycle for about 35 years. Painkillers aren’t supposed to be popped for long periods of time (1). Doing so can do real damage.
The FDA warns about serious side effects of painkillers.
The Food and Drug Administration—the government agency in the U.S. that oversees all things related to drug safety—suggests painkillers aren’t as harmless as many people think they are.
Here are some of the FDA’s thoughts on over-the-counter painkillers:
- The FDA (1)
- The FDA (2)
- The FDA (1)
NSAID stands for “Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug”, and includes ibuprofen, aspirin, and naproxen. Brands of NSAIDs include Midol, Advil, Motrin, and Aleve.
Possible side effects of painkillers like ibuprofen, Midol, and Advil*: (1)
It’s also worth mentioning that popular Midol products contain caffeine, which may come with the added side effect of actually making period cramps worse.
Painkillers were made by men, for men.
Painkillers were never designed for period pain, or for women at all. Most painkillers were invented in the 1950s. Due to the gender gap in clinical research, women were excluded from clinical trials until 1993. (3)
Meaning these drugs were widely used for decades without ever being tested on menstruating bodies, and dosages were set using data collected exclusively in men. This one-size-fits-all approach isn’t working for women’s health.
No one should need to endanger their health just to survive their period.
We’re not into relying on pharma when we don’t have to. We couldn’t find a healthy alternative to painkillers that actually worked for period cramps. So we created one.
Cramp Aid is our natural, non-drug solution to period cramps and discomfort.
- Dr. Ruth Arumala Ob/Gyn, DO, MPH, NCMP
Like painkillers, most users find relief within 45 minutes of taking Cramp Aid. But unlike painkillers, Cramp Aid supports your overall menstrual health, and can help make periods easier over time.
Research shows that using ingredients in Cramp Aid like fenugreek, vitamin B1, and zinc over multiple menstrual cycles reduces the intensity and duration of cramps with each cycle. (11, 12, 13) Painkillers could never.
It feels like magic, but it’s science. It also makes sense; natural ingredients work with our bodies, not against them.
Learn more about Cramp Aid here.
1. U.S. Food & Drug Administration. “Medication Guide for Nonsteroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs).” May 2016.
2. U.S. Food & Drug Administration. “FDA Drug Safety Communication: FDA strengthens warning that non-aspirin nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can cause heart attacks or strokes.” 26 February 2018.
3. Liu, K. A., & Dipietro Mager, N. A. (2016). Women’s involvement in clinical trials: historical perspective and future implications. Pharmacy Practice (Granada), 14(1), 0-0.
4. Zucker, I., & Prendergast, B. J. (2020). Sex differences in pharmacokinetics predict adverse drug reactions in women. Biology of sex differences, 11, 1-14 https://link.springer.com/content/pdf/10.1186/s13293-020-00308-5.pdf
5. Marjoribanks, J., Proctor, M., Farquhar, C., Sangkomkamhang, U. S., & Derks, R. S. (2003). Nonsteroidal anti‐inflammatory drugs for primary dysmenorrhoea. Cochrane database of systematic reviews, (4). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6953236/
6. American Gastroenterological Association. "Study Shows Long-term Use Of NSAIDs Causes Severe Intestinal Damage." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 16 January 2005. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/01/050111123706.htm
7. Inanmdar, W., Sultana, A., Mubeen, U., & Rahman, K. (2016). Clinical efficacy of Trigonella foenum graecum (Fenugreek) and dry cupping therapy on intensity of pain in patients with primary dysmenorrhea. Chinese journal of integrative medicine, 1-8.
8. Aghamohammady, A., & Tofighi, M. (2011). Comparing the effect of vitamin B1 (vit. B1) and ibuberofen on the treatment of primary dysmenorhea. African Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmacology, 5(7), 874-878.
9. Shirvani, M. A., Motahari-Tabari, N., & Alipour, A. (2015). The effect of mefenamic acid and ginger on pain relief in primary dysmenorrhea: a randomized clinical trial. Archives of gynecology and obstetrics, 291(6), 1277-1281.
10. Ozgoli, G., Goli, M., & Moattar, F. (2009). Comparison of effects of ginger, mefenamic acid, and ibuprofen on pain in women with primary dysmenorrhea. The journal of alternative and complementary medicine, 15(2), 129-132.
11. Younesy, S., Amiraliakbari, S., Esmaeili, S., Alavimajd, H., & Nouraei, S. (2014). Effects of fenugreek seed on the severity and systemic symptoms of dysmenorrhea. Journal of reproduction & infertility, 15(1), 41.
12. Azadimoghtader, M. (2016). Effect of Vitamine B1 on the intensity primary dysmenorrheal. Preventive Care in Nursing & Midwifery Journal, 6(1), 1-7.
13. Zekavat, O. R., Karimi, M. Y., Amanat, A., & Alipour, F. (2015). A randomised controlled trial of oral zinc sulphate for primary dysmenorrhoea in adolescent females. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, 55(4), 369-373
This information is for educational purposes only and is neither intended to nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.