In olden times, with no technological and medicinal advancements, women used heat to combat menstrual cramps, let it be in the form of hot towel, taking a hot bath or even using hot water bags.
However, it is not common in the 21st century. It could be because of the inconvenience of carrying these items around, or the stigma hovering over the concept of “menstruation”.
The most common methods used to deal with menstrual cramps are anti-inflammatory medicine, painkillers and birth control pills. We all know that taking these pills too often will lead to some awful side effects, but for the sake of convenience we turn a blind-eye to those side effects. In addition, women worldwide, still avoid work and school to sleep in and compensate the unbearable pain.
Nevertheless, present researchers have compared the analgesic (ability to cure) effect of both heat and anti-inflammatory drugs on women with severe menstrual cramps. Results have demonstrated that heat is a safer and more effective option.
Anti-inflammatory medicine has a lot of side effects.
The most commonly used medicine is ibuprofen. Their side effects include – upset stomach, mild heartburn, nausea, vomiting, bloating, diarrhoea, constipation, dizziness, mild itching or rash, etc.
Heat therapy, in contrast, does not have prominent side effects till now. It’s definitely recommended to be used as an alternative to medicine.
Thermal therapy has already been traditionally used to treat dysmenorrhea before advances in medical science. In the past, people used heating pads and hot water bags. The analgesic (pain-relieving) character of local heat is similar to the electrical cutaneous stimulation of nerves (using electric currents to stimulate the nerves for therapeutic purposes), justified by the modification of the pain threshold.
Heat patches, which provide heat therapy, also have the analgesic effect for a longer period of time (up to about 12 hours), which soothes and relieves the pain.