[Note: Gentlemen, there is nothing in this post that speaks to your interests, unless of course your interests include a lady friend who suffers from menstrual cramps. You have been warned.]
So here's the deal: back when I last cosplayed as Lady Vadore, I was unfortunately right smack in the midst of my womanly miseries*. I've always struggled with severe cramps and PMS and all the joys that go with them, so you can imagine how I felt that morning when I crawled out of bed and contemplated the Dreaded Corset.
[*If you read that fast it looks like "womanly miniseries." Ha!]
I was already in pain, but I gritted my teeth, swallowed two Tylenol, and had John lace me in. (OOPH.) I did have him loosen it quite a bit, though.
Within minutes I was feeling much better, but of course I attributed that to the pain pills.
"I feeeel happyyyy!"
That day I went about seven hours in costume, and I felt fantastic - no pain at all, even long after the Tylenol should have worn off. I was too distracted to think much of it, though, until we were packing up at the car to go home that evening. Since it's mighty uncomfortable to sit in a car that long laced in a tight corset, I swapped it out for a loose overshirt.
Within approximately three minutes of removing the corset - perhaps sooner - it felt like a sledgehammer hit me right in the gut. I've never had such a sudden onset of menstrual pain in my life, as I literally went from feeling on top of the world to curling into a ball and sobbing in agony.
Needless to say, this raised a few questions. Namely, does a corset stop cramps, and if so, how or why?
My internet research turned up lots of anecdotal evidence: plenty of ladies claiming corsets *do* stop or help cramps, but nothing more "official" or offering a medical explanation as to why. I also found a lot of links to scammy looking sites pimping something called a "premium beautiful corset" (yes, really) for menstrual pain. There was also a slightly less scammy-looking site selling a compression belt contraption for the same purpose, which seemed to support all the anecdotal evidence.
As to WHY a corset would relieve cramps, all I found were some dire-sounding warnings about corsets stopping menstrual bleeding all together, usually listed in articles bashing corsets as dangerous and unhealthy. On the other hand, there are just as many (if not more) sites defending regular corset-wear as perfectly healthy - assuming you wear them correctly, of course.
So, does compressing your uterus trigger it to stop shedding its lining, or does it alleviate the cramping for some other reason - maybe by just supporting the muscles/organs? Beats me. All I know is that it definitely works.
How do I know? Well, for the last couple months I've been wearing a tight compression band on the days I start to cramp - and it really, really works, you guys. Happily you don't have to wear a corset, though, or even anything all that tight. All you need is one of these babies:
Those are underbust shapewear camisoles you can find almost anywhere - assuming you don't already have one in your closet - or you can order one off of Ebay for less than $7 with shipping. (I think I found mine at Ross for ten or twelve bucks.)
The one I had kept cutting into my underarms with those straps, so one day I got out the scissors and hacked 'em off. Now it's just a stretchy tube for my abdomen, and I tuck the top edge under my bra band to keep it in place. They also sell "slim belts," though, which are essentially the same thing:
This one is $9 with shipping on ebay. (Note: I know nothing about these sellers, so of course do your own comparison shopping.)
These shapewear pieces are snug but extremely stretchy, so odds are you'll forget you're even wearing them. And even though the very LAST thing you want to do when you're cramping is put on tight-fitting clothing, believe me when I say this will absolutely alleviate some or all of the pain*.
[*Someone just pointed out I sound a little snake-oil huckster-y here; sorry! I should say I *believe* it will help you, but of course everyone is different and there are no guarantees.]
In fact, I've cut down drastically on the amount of pain pills I need each month - last month I think I even skipped them entirely, if you can believe it - thanks to this compression thingy and one other trick I stumbled across online: Magnesium supplements. I take one 200 mg tablet of magnesium citrate the second I start to feel the pain coming on, and then another with each meal and when/if I take any Tylenol, and I could swear it actually prevents the cramps from getting worse. (It looks like there's plenty of evidence to support this, too; here's one from the University of Maryland, for example, or just google "magnesium menstrual cramps" for more.)
You guys might recall that the last time I mentioned my uterus I was gunning for a hysterectomy - solely due to the pain each month - so believe me when I say this is a HUGE improvement. Fingers crossed it lasts.
Oh, and the only negative side effect to magnesium is that it can be a diuretic/laxative if you take too much of it - but that's actually kind of a good thing for a lot of us around that time, am I right? JUST SAYIN'. (I'm so glad we can have these chats, you guys.) Magnesium is cheap, too, so if nothing else you've got very little to lose by giving it a try!
As with everything concerning your health, though, always do your own research and/or talk to your doctor if you have questions. I can only tell you what's worked for me, and while I don't think either of these suggestions can harm you, again, please do your own research.
Speaking of which, I know there are (at least) several doctors who read Epbot, so if any of you would care to weigh in on this in the comments, I'd love to hear from you! Ditto for any of you regular corset-wearers out there. Let us glory in all our glorious womanhood, my lady friends, and freak out the men-folk with our talk of chocolate-cravings and heavy flows! WOOT WOOT!