6 Methods Of Period Pain Relief Tested, Because Cramps Shouldn't Get To Run The Show
Do you watch Stranger Things? In it there's a monster called the demogorgon that escapes from a dark, slimy world called the Upside Down and causes havoc for the townspeople of Hawkins. For the past ten years I've experienced pretty extreme period pain. When I'm on my period, my general pelvic area is the Upside Down and my period pains are the demogorgon ripping their way out — claws, teeth, and all. In this analogy, I'm the good townspeople of Hawkins, just trying to go about my daily business. Period pain this severe isn't normal, and I currently have a working diagnosis of endometriosis. But what it does mean is that I have a pretty strong threshold for testing period pain relief methods. So even if your pains aren't as strong as mine (and I really hope they aren't), if it works for me, chances are it'll work for you.
I tested six different methods of period pain relief to see how they stack up to my usual go-to remedy of two different types of painkiller and two hot water bottles — one for my stomach and one for my back. Some were better than others, I was pleasantly surprised by a couple, and extremely disappointed by one in particular. Read on to find out which ones are worth trying out for yourself.
This works just like a Tens machine but with slicker feel and more aesthetically-pleasing packaging. It’s also quite discreet and looks like a piece of wearable tech which means it can be easily hidden away in a pocket or clipped onto a belt loop or your pants. If you told someone this was a fitness tracker they'd believe you.
It comprises of two patches which have a gel overlay that plug into the pastel-coloured machine part via a cord. You can keep the patches on all day and just plug in as needed. You do have to replace the gel overlays after a while, and I found it a little bit tricky to tell which way was up when I went to do this. This was largely because I was trying to do it on a train without instructions which probably wasn't the best idea. However, you don't always know when period pain will strike, so it would be helpful if it was a little bit more self-explanatory. Especially as the product comes in a travel case suggesting it's portable.
It aims to help reduce pain by relaxing muscles and I did find it helped with mild cramps. It feels like a tingly vibration, a little like a non-painful electric shock. For me it worked as more of a distraction because I wouldn’t describe it as a soothing sensation. When my cramps were really bad it didn’t feel relaxing in the way a hot water bottle does and just became another thing for my pain-frazzled body to deal with.
2. OHNE Anti-Teardrops CBD Oil
I tried this product in two ways. One — I massaged it onto the affected areas, two — I tried a couple of drops on a tampon. I found it had little effect used on the tampon. I’m also not a regular tampon user as I prefer to use a cup for environmental and comfort reasons. However, if you are a tampon user, I did find I preferred OHNE’s to other brands I’ve tried in the past and they are made of organic cotton and are biodegradable.
While I didn’t find massaging the CBD oil into the affected areas had much of a pain relieving effect either, I do think, from a self care perspective, giving yourself a massage while on your period is a soothing distraction from mild pain. However, had my pain been more severe at that point, I think relaxation would have been difficult to achieve, massage or no massage. But not everyone agrees with me — the product has been so popular that it's currently sold out. Those wishing to buy can join a waitlist via the brand's website.
3. Cura-Heat Period Pain Patch
When I was at school I used to use back pain heat patches to help me get through the day without a bulky hot water bottle. Fast forward 10 or so years and there are actual dedicated period heat patches. These are more curvy in shape, which I don't really understand beyond product development people thinking women = curves. Cue major eye roll. It could be to indicate where to place it, but I found these weren’t big enough to actually reach across my stomach, so *shrugs*.
The packaging also instructs you to apply the patch to clothing. It even features a woman wearing the most enormous pair of pants and, while I’m firmly on the granny pants train, I don’t think anyone’s IRL knickers are really big enough to host one of these patches. Even my most generous pair aren't. This instruction also just doesn’t really make sense for how people move. It would be fine if you were staying in one position all day (in which case you’d probably use a microwaveable heat pad or hot water bottle anyway) but as these are designed to be worn on the go, I struggle to see how as your clothes move it would be able to target the areas you need it to.
Anyway, I totally ignored this instruction, as I was wearing the patch during the day and could monitor if it was getting too hot for me. But, as it turned out, there was absolutely no danger of that. It was lukewarm at best and I tried all three in the pack to make sure it wasn’t a fault. I really don’t know how you’d feel any effect at all if you wore it over clothing. I actually remember the back pain ones being a lot hotter than this and I wonder if there’s some underestimation of women’s pain at play here. I’d advise you to just stick to the back pain ones if you find them effective and give these ones the swerve.
4. BeYou Herbal patches
I have to admit, I was pretty sceptical that anything herbal could touch the sides when it came to tackling my period pain. But I was really pleasantly surprised by these. The effect was similar to Deep Heat — quite tingly in sensation. I’d recommend this when you’d rather not use a hot water bottle and your period pains aren’t totally wiping you out. So on the go or maybe when going to bed, for safety.
They’re pretty long in length which means they can target more than one area and, as they're fabric strips, it’s also easy to snip them up into smaller pieces to specifically target different areas of pain. They smell pretty good too (of ecualyptus and mint) and it’s not overwhelming. I did find the application a bit tricky and sometimes the strips stuck together if I wasn’t careful. However, the paper on the reverse side is split up a bit like a plaster to make application easier and once I realised that (my bad), it was easier to put on effectively.
Again I don’t think these would be a match for really severe period pain but they definitely soothed the milder pains I had. Handily, BeYou also offers a subscription service so you can have a new pack delivered each month for £4.99 a pop, meaning you'll always have them ready when you need them.
5. Foria Basics Suppositories
Out of all the products I tested, I was most intrigued to try these. The suppositories contain CBD and, through insertion into the vagina, are supposed to specifically target the pelvic area. On my first night of testing I popped one in before going out for the evening. I think placing it in conjunction with my menstrual cup might have helped it target the required areas, as I felt more relaxed and pain was minimised. However I’m not completely sure if this was down to the suppositories or the cocktails.
Obviously this wasn’t a fair test of the product, so I carried on using it for the next day or so. The instructions tell you to place it in your vagina which I tried the first time but then I saw an article on The Stranger which suggested it might be more effective placed in your bum. I tried that on the second day and then again reverted to the vagina on the third.
Overall, I felt it was more effective used the way the packaging advises, however I have a friend who also tried them and said the opposite. We both felt the area affected by cramps was more relaxed no matter which way it went in, but we didn’t find it had a massive impact on pain. It took the edge off and felt somewhat soothing but I would still need proper painkillers and or a hot water bottle to really banish intense cramps. Plus, these can be really tricky to get out of their individual pods. I had to use my teeth which meant the suppository nearly went flying out and into the loo. My friend just used scissors to cut hers out, but as you should be able to use these on the go, that’s quite a faff, and for £72 a packet (which contains 8 capsules) you don't expect snags like these.
6. Hot Hands Hand Warmers
I tried these after complaining to a friend about the lukewarm temperature of the heat patch above. She said these get really warm and would be worth a try. I ordered them without realising that they aren't adhesive in any way (again, my bad). But my friend was right — these do get really hot. So if you can find a way to secure them to the required areas then excellent. However, I struggled and found they were only really practical when I could sit in a way that kept them pressed to my stomach. I could definitely see them working if you were at your desk all day, but they're not going to stay put when out an about. However, Hot Hands do make an adhesive body warmer, which should hopefully get as warm as these do. I'd give that a try if you want your pads to stick to you while you move.
Period pain is the pits, but luckily more and more remedies are coming onto the market. While I didn't find any of these hit the spot quite like painkillers plus a hot water bottle fortress, there were certainly some valuable and practical alternatives for days when the pain is mild or when remaining stuck to the sofa is simply not an option.
Readers should note that the regulations and data surrounding CBD are still developing. As such, the information contained in this post should not be construed as medical or legal advice. Always consult with your doctor before trying any substance or supplement.