Medical Treatment for Menstrual Cramps

Woman on bed with bad cramps

If self-help remedies for menstrual cramps fail to reduce your pain sufficiently after three months, you may want to consider medical treatment. Medical treatment for menstrual cramps includes the use of anti-inflammatory drugs, oral contraceptives, and stronger pain medications.

Certain non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) decrease prostaglandin production which eases menstrual cramps. NSAIDs such as Cataflam® (Diclofenac) may be prescribed when OTC anti-inflammatory drugs fail to adequately relieve menstrual pain. Other prescription NSAIDs often prescribed for menstrual cramps include naproxen (Naprosyn, Anaprox), ibuprofen (Motrin, IBU), indomethacin (Indocin), and mefenamic acid (Ponstel).

If your doctor prescribes NSAIDs, be sure to take the medicine exactly as prescribed. Women who have asthma, or who have experienced an asthma attack, hives, or any other allergic reaction to aspirin or any other NSAID should not take NSAIDs for menstrual cramps.

Birth control pills often provide effective relief from painful menstrual cramps. The hormones in oral contraceptives help to regulate your menstrual cycle and often help to reduce or eliminate menstrual cramps, and other menstrual symptoms such as those experienced by women who have PMS or PMDD. When used solely for relieving menstrual cramps, 6 to 12 months of oral contraceptives are necessary. Most women experience continued cramp relief after stopping the pills.

When other medical treatments are not an option, or when they fail to provide relief from menstrual cramping, stronger pain medications including narcotics such as codeine, are prescribed for short-term use.

If You Have an IUD

While it’s normal to experience increased cramping during the first few months following IUD insertion if increased menstrual pain continues longer than 6 months talk to your doctor about having your IUD removed. If you still want to prevent unplanned pregnancies, you and your doctor should talk about other types of contraceptives.​​

Was this page helpful?

Article Sources

  • Medication Guide for Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs); FDA;
  • On The Teen Scene--A Balanced Look at the Menstrual Cycle; FDA;
  • Painful Menstrual Periods; Medline Plus Medical Encyclopedia;