ouchIf your menstrual cramps are more intense than those your friends seem to get, you may wonder why yours are different. One reason may be that you’re more sensitive to pain than they are, according to several studies (including this, this and this). This means that not only does menstrual cramp pain affect you more, other types of pain do, too. In fact, one study found that severe menstrual cramps could be an indicator that you’ll also have more pain at the dentist’s office.

Does this mean you’ve got to throw in the towel and simply accept that you’ll have to endure more menstrual and other types of pain than most other women do? Maybe not. Researchers have discovered several easy ways to reduce sensitivity to pain–and they may help lessen some of your discomfort.

Here are 3 simple study-proven methods to try to reduce your pain sensitivity:

1. Get more sleep If you’ve been shorting yourself on sleep by staying up late or getting up early, then here’s one good reason to make up your sleep debt by clocking a few extra hours of snoozing and then getting the recommended seven to eight hours of sleep nightly: Numerous studies (including this, this and this) have found direct evidence that less sleep results in more pain sensitivity. While researchers aren’t sure why this link exists, the prevailing theory is that lack of sleep somehow triggers more inflammation, which exacerbates pain.

2. Take vitamin D3 Some research (including this and this) has found a link between increased pain sensitivity and a deficiency in vitamin D–a condition that affects, on average, 41% of adults and far more in those with darker complexions since it takes longer for sun exposure to create vitamin D in the skin. Scientists theorize that vitamin D may work as an anti-inflammatory in the body or that too little of this vitamin impairs your body’s pain suppression system in some way. There are numerous other reasons to take vitamin D3 (the most easily absorbed supplemental form of vitamin D), for instance, it reduces your risk of prementrual syndrome (PMS), uterine fibroids and possibly certain cancers. So, it’s definitely a key nutrient in your health-boosting arsenal. Aim for 600 IU to 2000 IU of vitamin D3 daily.

3. Meditate Sounds too easy to work, but regularly practicing mindulness meditation–where you sit still with your back straight and focus on your breath as you slowly inhale and slowly exhale–can reduce your pain sensitivity, according to research (such at this, this and this). Another reason to practice meditation: It prompts a higher production of the sleep-regulating hormone melatonin, which can help you get more pain-quashing zzz’s, according to several studies (such as this and this). Get mindfulness meditation tips at Youtube.com.

[Photo: Travis Nicholson]