Fibromyalgia syndrome often has the unfortunate effect of increasing your sensitivity to pain. Because of this increased sensitivity to pain, fibromyalgia often results in dysmenorrhea in many women.
Dysmenorrhea is a disorder that causes excruciating pain in the abdomen, pelvis and other areas of the body during your menstrual cycle. It is one of the most common gynecological disorders and affects about 40% of women in North America.
Unfortunately, dysmenorrhea often affects fibromyalgia patients and may make your symptoms of pain and fatigue even worse.
What is Dysmenorrhea?
Dysmenorrhea is a condition that causes extremely painful menstrual cramps. The cramps produced by dysmenorrhea can range in intensity, from highly uncomfortable to debilitating.
Typically, the cramps caused by the disorder last anywhere from a few hours to a few days, though some women can experience extreme cramping for as long as a week.
Cramping originates in the uterus, but there can also be abdominal cramps and pain in the lower back, thighs, and down the backs of the legs. About 10% of women with dysmenorrhea are bedridden for 3 days every month.
Types of Dysmenorrhea
There are two main types of dysmenorrhea:
Primary dysmenorrhea is a form of the disorder that typically occurs within three years of your first menstrual period, though it can occur sooner. Most women with primary dysmenorrhea have never had painless menstrual periods.
Primary dysmenorrhea is the result of the uterus’s overproduction of prostaglandins, which are hormones that help the uterus to contract.
Because the uterus is a muscle, it is normal for it to contract. Most of the time, these contractions are painless and you won’t even realize that they are going on.
However, sometimes the uterus produces too many prostaglandins causing extremely painful contractions. These prostaglandins can also produce sensations of nausea, headache, and dizziness.
The pain of primary dysmenorrhea usually begins 24 hours before your period begins. It typically ends before your period finishes.
Secondary dysmenorrhea is a form of the disorder caused by infection, disease, or abnormalities in the reproductive organs.
Most women who have secondary dysmenorrhea have had normal and painless menstrual cycles at some point in their lives.
Secondary dysmenorrhea also causes severe abdominal pain and cramps but the pain tends to onset earlier than in primary dysmenorrhea.
Cramping typically begins up to a week before menstruation and can persist for a few days after the end of your period.