06 Oct Lessen menstrual cramps with a warm footbath
- Key findings: A warm, bubbly footbath for 20 minutes on the first few days of your period can ease menstrual cramp pain, study shows.
OCTOBER 6, 2021—Does the start of your period also mean the start of painful menstrual cramps?
If you want to limit your use of over-the-counter pain pills (which come with health risks, such as stomach irritation and liver problems), you probably prefer natural remedies instead. Just a few may include a heating pad, ginger supplements and pelvic massage with lavender-scented oil, which have all been shown in studies to ease menstrual cramp pain.
Dunking your toes douses cramp pain
In a 2021 study in the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, scientists discovered that a 20-minute foot soak in warm, bubbly water spurs a dramatic drop in menstrual cramp pain.
How they found out: The researchers, from Taiwan’s Camillian Saint Mary’s Hospital Luodong, recruited 68 nursing students who experience painful menstrual cramps, then divided them into two groups.
One group soaked their feet for 20 minutes on the first two days of their period. Their feet were submerged to a little above their ankle in a bubbling portable footbath that vibrates the soles (like these that can be found on Amazon). The water was warmed to 107.6 degrees Fahrenheit (42 degrees Celsius).
The other group of women, the control, sat quietly without soaking their legs for the same amount of time also on the first two days of their period.
What they discovered: The women in the footbath group experienced a significant drop in menstrual cramp pain.
Specifically, on the pain visual analogue scale (PVAS), which uses a scale of 0 to 10 to measure discomfort, with 0 being “no pain” and 10 being “worst imaginable pain”, the footbath resulted in women dropping their menstrual cramp rating from an average of seven to two.
And using another pain assessment scale, the Short-Form McGill Pain Questionnaire (SF-MPQ), footbath users saw their pain drop from 11 to just 1.
By comparison, the control group who didn’t use the footbath saw only a two-point drop in pain intensity on the PVAS scale and a four-point drop on the SF-MPQ measurement.
The footbath-pain reduction link
Why would a warm footbath have an effect on what’s going on in your pelvis? The study authors point to these key reasons:
- Heating your feet decreases muscle tension by dialing down your sympathetic nervous system (responsible for your fight-or-flight response) and activating your parasympathetic nervous system (responsible for your rest-and-digest system), which relaxes tight, spasming uterine muscles and reduces the perception of pain
- The warm temperature increases blood flow by dilating blood vessels, which increases the amount of oxygen that reaches tissues, diluting the amount of pain-causing prostaglandins that are behind your period cramps
How you can use this information
If you regularly get menstrual cramps, try a warm, bubbly footbath that soaks your feet from your toes to just above your ankles for 20 minutes on each of the days of your period that you experience cramping.
In this study, the female volunteers used a portable footbath that bubbles and offers a vibrating massage. You can find this type of footbath at Amazon.
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Get menstrual cramps? A 20-minute warm, bubbly footbath during your period spurs a dramatic drop in menstrual cramp pain, shows a study in the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology. Learn more: MyHormonology.com/menstrual-cramps-footbath-study
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(1) Shih-Ju Wu, Wei-Chih Kan, Chih-Chung Shiao, “Warm-water footbath improves dysmenorrhoea and heart rate variability in college students: a randomised controlled trial”, Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, published online September 24, 2021
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