Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Can A Corset Cure Cramps?

I've debated writing this post for a little while now, but at this point I figure I've discussed everything from my OB-GYN visits to my bra size with you guys, so hey, why not?

[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!

237 comments:

  1. I'm in the midst of my first pregnancy, and due to all the lovely extra reading I've been frantically doing, I've learned that magnesium is an often-prescribed laxative for pregnant women as well as being what they give you at the hospital to try to stop your labor if you start having early contractions. So it makes sense that it would help menstrual cramps too, since in essence I guess it's the same thing, just on a smaller scale. I've generally had sort of the opposite effect with the compression, though... my cramps were always much worse with tampons and a shaper on than if I was in loose-fitting clothing with a pad, but... ew, pads. So I generally take a lot of Excedrin that week. So... yay, TMI! :-P

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    1. @ Laura E.- More TMI for you... I also feel that tampons make my cramps worse but am grossed out by the diaper feeling of pads, so I switched to a Diva Cup (Moon Cup is another brand) They take some getting used to, but it saves $ in the long run, and I feel like the medical-grade silicone is healthier up in that area than bleached or treated tampons/pads. (I'm a bit of a hippy in that regard, though)

      "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?" Oy, I have the OPPOSITE problem during "Shark Week". Bodies, what the heck? Haha.

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    2. Tampons are well known to cause much more severe bleeding and cramping. It's very well document and medically studied. I agree pads are absolutely gross! There is an alternative though, but it takes practice. It's called a moon cup or a feminine cup, and its a small silicone cup you insert into the vagina against the cervix and it catches the flow. Most women can wear it all day (because remember, you'll have far less bleeding each day). They're reusable for 1-5 years too, so at $20 or so, you'll save a lot of money too.

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    3. I'm about to burst pregnancy wise, I have very much enjoyed the lack of periods! I have issues with tampons and cramping too. This will probably sound totally gross, but have you considered a menstrual cup? There are several brands, Mooncup/Femmecup etc. While they're a bit ew while you get used to them, I've found them a good middle ground of not having to use pads but not having the side effects of tampons.

      And you thought YOU were TMI ;)

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    4. You might want to NOT take Excedrin that week. I'm a great believer in Excedrin for headaches but the caffeine and the aspirin in it can make the flow very heavy.

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    5. You might look into using a menstrual cup. (Sounds icky, but really isn't.) It might be more comfortable and you'll be saving money AND helping the environment. :)

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    6. I went to kind of a hippie college (and proud of it!), and many of the girls I knew used the Diva Cup and loved it. At the time I couldn't justify the expense, but did use washable pads during my less active times. I've been considering getting one once my period comes back (and I use up all the products I have left over). I tried Instead once as sort of a test to see how I felt about it, but I hated it, We'll see!

      And as far as the Excedrin... unfortunately, no other pain medication does anything for me, generally not even prescription meds. The last medical procedure I had, I was prescribed Percoset, and I was in tears I was still in so much pain, until I got Excedrin and could function again. Don't know why.

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    7. I LOVE my menstrual cup. I'd been using the smaller DivaCup for a few years & my hubby bought me the bigger one for Valentine's Day this year! They are so comfortable & convenient & I find using a cup just so much cleaner. I HIGHLY recommend switching to use a menstrual cup, as tal says, saves money AND the environment!

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    8. Yes, yes, yes, Diva Cup. LOVE mine. It literally changed my life.

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    9. I have never heard of a menstrual cup, but I just did a quick search and wow, that seems really interesting. I want to try it! I used to get cramps so bad I had to stay home from school. Once I started on the Pill (at 22, I'm 27 now) I haven't had cramp issues, but tampons do dry me out and can hurt since I have a very light flow. Thank you for the suggestion ladies, and Jen thank you for opening up the topic!

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    10. I switched to a diva cup last month and instead of my normal first day cramping, which is ibuprofin every four hours, on the couch with a heating pad all day feeling miserable, I felt a slight twinge for an hour or so, and nothing after that. Even better, I only had one heavy day and two light, spotting after that, instead of two heavy and three light as I usually do. Needless to say, I highly recommend it!

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    11. I'm going to join the crowd recommending Diva cups - much less cramping for me than with tampons. Also, it holds more (ew, I know), so on my heavy days, I can actually go a few hours between bathroom trips, instead of running to the potty every hour. On light days, I usually forget it's that time of month, since I don't need to change it all day.

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    12. As I was reading this article, the first thing that came to mind was - use a cup! I use the Lunette and love it. I started with the small and now have the large as well. I couldn't stand tampons because they made my cramps so much worse and I could go through one and a pad in two hours. Such a pain! Since using a cup, I have saved a TON of money and time. I used to go through an entire pack of pads each month and would visit the bathroom every 2-3 hours (I was so used to "leaking" it made me paranoid). Now, I only use pads overnight and I a liner just in case (still a little paranoid). So convenient and easy and way more comfortable!

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    13. I also love my Diva Cup. It is fantastic. However, a warning if you have any prolapse and a heavy flow like me, the Diva Cup is longer than some of the other cups and can suction onto the things that are up high and pull on them and make your back achey if it gets too full. If you turn it inside out or get a shorter one though, this is not a problem. Just in case anyone has a weird body like me. But I heart my diva cup so much compared to tampons, once I figured out how to put it in right and quickly, (tampons made me feel lightheaded and dizzy all the time and would have to be changed way more often than my diva cup and are just as messy) and pads, which invariably led to leaking because of heavy flow. You can wear it on light days and heavy days and overnight and it's so lovely. I want to tell everyone about it.

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    14. I tried the Diva Cup, but I have a tilted uterus...so it didn't work for me.

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    15. Let me be one more voice in the "Yay for menstrual cups" chorus!

      I switch between a large Fleur cup and a XL meluna depending on how heavy my flow is.

      Started using a cup about seven years ago because I had to change the super XL tampons hourly. Even the small moon cup I used back then let me go around three hours. Positive side effect: I was able to take pain meds altogether on my second cycle with the cup (on my first cycle with the cup I took some Iboprofen. Minimal dosage). And I was taking a lot of them before. Strong ones (Piroxicam: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Piroxicam ). Tylenol or Iboprofen did nothing for me.

      Also, within those years my endometriosis got much better. Without any treatment (it wasn't that bad to begin with, but it was definitely there. Now it's gone. My doc said so. And has, after hearing my story, started to recommend cups. Though I don't have scientific proof, so just take that as my personal experience, not a generic statement please. I had two pregnancies since, they might have played a role in clearing the endo too).

      If you are interested, check out the menstrual cup community at lifeyournal, they have a lot of information about different cups and how and whom they fit and are very helpful if you have questions.

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  2. I have nothing to contribute to the topic at hand ... but it occurred to me that Lady Vadore's first name should be "Dorothy" (which, if you say it right, sounds like "Dar'thy").

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    1. My high school English teacher had a black cat named Dorothy Vader. Hadn't thought about that in years!

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  3. Thanks for the tip! I have never worn a corset during those three days I turn into a werewolf, but I have found that it helps my back pain significantly. I'm a custom bridal and couture seamstress, so the bending I have to do for work (fabric cutting, fittings etc)can be really hard on your back. When I start to feel sore, I pop on a corset, and I'm hunky dorey until I can do some hot yoga to fix the problem.

    Has anybody else had this happen?

    Lexie

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    1. I suggest cutting back on the corset wearing when your back hurts from lifting too much. The back pain is telling you that something is wrong. You need to change your lifting technique or something. The corset is allowing you to continue to hurt your back without your knowledge.

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    2. Hi there!

      Oh, I know whats wrong. I ran rodeo for years and have compression fractures - I will always have some pain. My corset wear is okayed by my doctor, as long as its in moderation. Thanks for the input though!

      Lexie

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    3. I disagree. Corsets are just like any other support you would wear for soreness, like an ankle brace or knee brace. In fact, people with chronic back pain are often told to wear a corset to ease the pain. Granted, there's a difference between tightlacing and a support corset. even so, a corset immobilizes the muscles of the back and actually stops any further 'damage' you could do to them because you are no longer using them.

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    4. I have learned to wear a long-line shaping panty ( it comes up to my bra) when i travel or have to sit in long meetings. I have some skeletal issues and the support the shaper gives me makes a huge difference in my comfort. I wear a shaping cami (less support) most days, more for warmth than anything else. I have had less pain all around since starting this practice.

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    5. I am in the same boat. I have chronic back pain problems that often limit me staying on my feet for extended periods. I am addicted to fairs (ren faire, dickens fair, steampunk cons, etc) though so I'd tough it out with lots of pain pills but generally be miserable. Once I started wearing corsets for costumes, I noticed I had a lot more durability throughout the day! I now regularly go out dancing and so on and I never go without one of my corsets, and never feel back pain since my problem areas are supported.

      If one isn't overzealous with tight lacing (or tight laces with caution, practice, and proper research) it really doesn't cause the problems people think of. The kinds of damages corsets are generally affiliated with from victorian women had a lot more to do with the fact they started corseting at the start of puberty and thus literally were molding their bones and organs as they grew. Wearing a corset now and then, or even just for a couple hours a day at a comfortable tightness, will not cause any permanent reforming.

      A great resource for all things corsetry, including a lot of the health concerns and benefits of corsets, is Lucy's Corsetry . she has a fantastic array of good youtube tutorials for making, reviewing, lacing, and health related corset topics.

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  4. This. Is. Excellent! I had never even thought of compression to cure abdominal cramps but it makes perfect sense. A cramp is a muscle contraction which affects blood flow to the area, causing pain. It makes sense that wearing compression belts would help with menstrual cramps just as much as compression socks help with deep vein thrombosis on long flights. Both methods improve blood flow... that was more graphic than I intended.
    I'm so glad we can talk about these things ^_^

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  5. Just had to weigh in and say I love this blog so much - How to build a steampunk shelf to menstruation in 0.6 seconds!! Definitely going to try this next month as I suffer horrendously too.

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  6. My doctor *thinks* I have endometriosis. (and I can't get an official diagnosis until I pony up around $4k to have a laparoscopy, so we've been treating it like it's endo and the treatments help as much as they can.) Endometriosis is the growth of uterine lining - the endometrium - outside of the uterus. It responds to regular hormones in my body, meaning, yay! Internal menstrual bleeding! So I take hormonal birth control every single day, without breaks, and try to go easy on my insides as much as possible. Between the endo and a pretty scarred-up right ovary (yay cysts!), I have a really hard time finding pants that I can wear. Full disclosure, I've had to cut the band off ALL of my underthings because they are too tight - it's not a sizing issue, it's a pressure issue. Anything constricting around my innards is *so* painful. I will feel like I'm having the worst cramps I've ever had, when I'm not even having a period, just from something being too tight on my lower abdomen. I haven't worn jeans in about 3-4 years? (I cringe writing that. You can imagine what the alternatives for pants are if you can't wear pants that have buttons and zippers. It's not pretty. I am the mayor of town Yoga Pants.)

    The amazing thing is, that wearing a corset truly helps. My problem is definitely pressure sensitive, but having a general pressure all over my abdomen actually helps me from moving the wrong way or putting awkward pressure on my guts, and helps relieve the massive cramps I get. But as soon as I take it off, the cramps are worse than they were when I put it on. I used to wear one daily, but as I've been more and more of a homebody, I don't usually bother anymore. Also, it's really weird wearing a corset around under regular street clothes. (Especially if you're a bigger-busted girl like me, my boobs enter a room about five minutes ahead of the rest of me, and it is NOT helped by a corset. Well, it helps in that they look fabulous. But it's bad because cartoon wolves keep whistling at me? What is up with that?)

    I'm definitely going to check out taking magnesium supplements to see if it'd help with the day-to-day cramping I get from regular activity. Thanks for starting a great conversation!

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  7. Due to paranoia about sleeping while on my period, I have taken to wearing spandexy boy-shorts to bed primarily in order to keep my pads in place and just from that experience I can say that I generally feel much better when I am snugly encased in clothing. I also usually try to wear the tightest-fitting jeans I have while on my period for the same easing of cramps.

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  8. Totally anecdotal proof here too, but I swear that wearing my corset helps me too during that time of the month! That and tampons seem to minimize my discomfort, I tend to have more cramping when using pads and I think I also discovered about the corset while going to a con. I never would have believed it was possible, but it does help me a lot!

    Happy to hear that this is helping you until you get the hysterectomy! Hang in there :)

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  9. It could be that the compression is "tricking" your nerve endings....we have different nerve fibers that do different things: A alpha, A beta, C and A Delta. Only C and A Delta types transmit pain, as well as vibration, touch, temperature, etc. Basically, if you experience another sensation along with the pain, the pain transmission is reduced - the nervous system can't really handle both. So because the corset and the shapewear are constantly stimulating touch receptors on your skin, it could be essentially "overloading" your nervous system so that the pain signal is reduced. This is the same reason why rubbing a stubbed toe helps dissipate the pain.

    At any rate, glad you found a solution!

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  10. Does the pain still hit you badly the moment you take the corset off? Because that sounds like just delaying the pain, to me...

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    1. I thought the same thing, but it hasn't worked that way for me - once the wave of cramping/pain is gone, it's gone; it doesn't seem to build up. The trick is just knowing how long to keep the compression band/corset on! (I tend to just keep it on all day, and then see how I feel at night.)

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  11. Haven't worn a corset during cramps but a fitted laced-bodice (medieval re-enactment!) which seemed to help. I figured it might be that my posture was better with some support, thus relieving cramps a little.
    Also, since I switched to a Mooncup I get less cramps-much better than tampons.

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  12. With my first pregnancy I was on a magnesium drip and they warned me I would feel hot and probably a bit queasy. There are some lovely "in labor" pics of me in my hospital bed with two oscillating fans blowing on me and wet wash cloths on every surface of my body. Next to me is my mom and husband both in cardigans. The room was apparently freezing but I was miserable. Felt like I was on fire and kept reaching for that little plastic dish every few minutes.

    So, when my naturopath suggest magnesium as a supplement to help with EVIL periods I avoided it like the plague. I have a thyroid condition and my period was just getting worse, heavier (like go through the super size tampons in a hour heavy), cramping bad enough I was in tears. I felt awful. So I went ahead and bought the supplement then forgot about it.

    That is until tonight. Miserable, crampy and just generally in pain, I pulled up Epbot to kill time and behold the post. Took the supplements and they took the edge off within minutes.

    I've been coping with a dangerous amount of ibuprofen, pamprin, etc. Somedays I would take enough throughout the day that my ears would buzz. Yeah...probably not the safest thing.

    Then I dug through my dresser drawer and I'm now sitting in my PJS wearing Spanx. A little odd but it seems to be helping.


    So thanks for the experiment Jen! ;)

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  13. I had some iron deficiency, excessive tiredness, and other menstrual-ly related problems and was given an IUD. My lady times have been better in the flow, but worse in the pain. I know when the pain is bad clutching a pillow to my abdomen helped, but I never connected it with the pressure. The under bust cami looks like just the ticket for those times and when I have to dress professionally and feeling like my fatness is too much. Now, can you just go ahead and develop a severe enough problem with slouching, ADHD, and Dyslexia to make wonderfully informative and helpful blog posts about? I'd appreciate it! ;)

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  14. Compression helps with a lot of muscle and tissue injuries, so I don't think it's that strange that it can help with this too!

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  15. I love my underbust corsets. I have a slightly different reason; I can't feel the muscles in my stomach without one and wearing one (not tied tight) gives them something to resist, thus strengthening them, which helps my posture when I'm not wearing one as well as when I am. I have one blue denim and one pinstripe, both from ebay. They're not really slimming apart from the improved posture, because steel bones and several layers of fabric *adds* to the waist, but that's a minor concern, I love them. Somehow "we shouldn't have to wear a corset" became "we mustn't wear a corset" and I think that's sad. If it benefits you, go for it.

    On the subject of menstrual cramps, I think what works must vary massively from person to person. My mother always insisted I must go for a walk when I had pains, because that's what worked for her. Walking. Never. Helped. All it ever did was make me even more tired.

    Re. laxatives, I don't take them or anything which has that side-effect, but I do find increasing my consumption of water by at least a third in the couple of days before I'm due helps a lot.

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  16. Magnesium is also a great supplement to take if you get migraines (and I do). By taking a magnesium supplement every day, my migraines have decreased by probably 90% (yes, even during period week)! So YAY for magnesium!

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    1. Yes, good point! My doctor once offered me an IV drip for migraines, and when I asked him what was in it, he said it was mostly magnesium(!!). Since I only seem to get them around my cycle, the extra supplements definitely helps cut down on them.

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    2. Ooh, I like the sound of some magnesium! (Frequent headache sufferer)

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    3. Okay so I dont get a period any more (yay hormonal birth control.. Nexplanon rocks) but I do get migraines... may have to check out this magnesium option and see if it helps me with those

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    4. Magnesium is a seriously awesome pain reliever. It's been recommended to me for my fibromyalgia, and though I don't take a supplement because of a picky stomach, I get mine through baths with epsom salt. (You can absorb magnesium through the skin!) It's absolutely wonderful and makes such a difference.

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    5. I was going to make a similar comment. I take a combo magnesium/riboflavin to prevent migraines. Previously I tried Topamax (which I'm still suffering side effects from, even though I haven't taken it for 3+ years), anti-depressants, and low-blood pressure medication. The Topamax worked the best, but I couldn't deal with the side effects. I started taking the supplements about a year and a half ago and they work better than even the Topamax, with far fewer side effects (since we're all sharing, the riboflavin makes my pee neon yellow and the magnesium gives me some stomach sensitivities because I take a ridiculous dose of it.) plus it's cheaper and I feel like me. I still get nasty migraines right before my period starts and the rest of that week, but the rest of the month I get maybe 2 or 3. Which is a HUGE change for me...I was getting about 3-4 per WEEK! I totally recommend anyone suffering from migraines to talk to their doctors about magnesium.

      I still get terrible cramps when I get my period, I don't think the magnesium has done anything for that...but since starting it, I've come off birth control (apparently you shouldn't take it if you get migraine with aura) and discovered I have PCOS which makes me ridiculously irregular. Essentially, my lady parts are a mess.

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    6. Storm the KlingonMay 23, 2013 at 3:09 AM

      Topamax nearly killed me. I was on it for eight months 2 years ago. It literally made me want to die, yet it sucked any energy out of me that I might've had to attempt it; I didn't want to kill myself, I just didn't care if I lived. It tweeked my stomach to the point of anorexia; nice for weight loss-- 20+ pounds-- not so nice if you're hypoglycemic, like me. I was always weak and woozy. It made my hair fall out in clumps, made it impossible to sleep for days on end to the point of hallucinations, and worst of all, did almost nothing to stop my migraines, which seemed to be getting worse/more frequent as I got older. Utterly useless snake oil crap, and a couple hundred dollars down the drain.

      I've mentioned it here before, but what the hey; a little over a year ago, I started to feel like I was starting to start to go through The Change. I had most of the usual symptoms, except that I was/am still getting my monthly bill. However, it started arriving either early or late (I've always been predictable as the tides), and my cramps seemed to get worse (first 6-12 hours). A trick I heard about a few years ago always seems to work for me; one must start taking Advil, and have at least 200mg in one's system at all times, *before* you start. For some reason, this makes them come on WAY easier than if you take it when you're already in the throes of it. This had worked for me for a long time (and does again, now that I'm sorted), but it wasn't enough anymore. Even my beloved cannabis (which is FANTASTIC for migraines, BTW) didn't seem to cut it much.

      I then started taking a Chinese herb call Dong Quai, AKA Chinese Angelica Root, on a daily basis; just as ginseng is full of natural testosterone and is therefore a Man's Herb, dong quai is chockablock with natural estrogen, and is a Woman's Herb. Not only did the pre-menopause freakiness pretty much go away or reduce greatly, my husband noticed a fantastic side effect; about 6 weeks into taking it, he realized "Hey, when did you start taking dong quai? Six weeks ago? Hmm... when was your last migraine...?" I looked on the calendar, and it was about a week before I started taking it. Dig it; I'd gone from several a month (sometimes 3 or 4 a WEEK), to ZERO. I crossed my fingers, said a prayer of thanks, and hoped it'd keep working. I've been taking it for almost 14 months now, and in that time, I've had FOUR migraines, including only one so far this year. From four a week to four in a YEAR, sisters. Please, look into it; Chinese doctors have used it for thousands of years, and it costs like $15 for a big-ass bottle.

      Jen, my girl, if the compression of a corset helps as much as it seems to, you need to keep seeing your chiropractor and/or a good massage therapist; there's some intramuscular weirdness going on up in you! As much as corseting way back in the day gets a bad rap now as being torture that women were forced to endure, many women DID ENJOY wearing them, for the health benefits of back support (both spinal and muscular) and the stomach muscle compression. It's only when you get all crazy with the tight-lacing and start rearranging organs that you need to worry!

      FUN FACT: You know how fashion models these days are always 'Shopped to death, so that they represent a ridiculous, impossible to achieve standard of beauty? Corset advertisers used to do the same thing in their ads; they'd airbrush the negatives of the models so their waists were impossibly tiny, then claim it was because of their product, and don't YOU want a wasp-waist like THIS? And if a lady was rich enough, she'd have the same thing done to her portraits; shear off several inches from the waist and ribs. THAT was the closest any woman came to having ribs removed for a tiny waist, which is an urban legend.

      Cheers, thanks a lot, and stay strong,

      Storm

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    7. My dad keeps advocating high doses of Vitamin B for migraines, because when he was in college, a German doctor prescribed it for him (this was when vitamins were still prescribed and not on the shelf because we didn't really understand them). I was super "lucky" to inherit migraines from both sides of my family, though my mom doesn't suffer from them. I get them worse than anyone, too. I don't have auras, so I can treat the cyclical ones with birth control. I need to look into the magnesium since I also have severe neck and shoulder pain from an old injury. It might be the answer I've been searching for. Like Kelly, I tried Topomax, which worked, but had side effects I couldn't deal with. Now I'm on other medications that aren't working and the doc keeps upping my dosage. Blah. I think it might be time to try the magnesium and vitamin B.

      Delete
    8. oh my god. I could just hug you guys right now! I suffer from major cramps, and the hormones they put me on for that inflames my migraine condition. Menstrual cups and compression? And the magnesium trick, I never thought of that! I've had those IVs done before! Seriously, Jen, if these suggestions really help me, you are so getting an awesome goody package in the mail :)

      Delete
  17. Corsets? Really?! That is rather cool and I so wish I'd known about it at the height of my horrible cramps (I sympathise hugely - the shooting pains down my legs, the vomiting. Niiice) but what sorted me was having a baby. I assume cleaning out the whole area is what fixed it but realise that's perhaps a bit drastic! *g* I hope your respite continues!!

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  18. I've never actually tried with a corset- But as someone who has endometriosis, I know that pressure generally helps the pain (you will often find me squeezing my fist into my stomach and bending over it). I think I might actually try with my corsets now, as I have a number, and any excuse to wear something pretty while in pain is a bonus!

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  19. I recently attempted to start taking magnesium to help with my migraines. Sadly, it kicked off an episode of hives. Just something to look out for. Apparently some people, me included, are allergic to magnesium supplements. Not magnesium in foods, just the supplements. Weird, huh?

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    Replies
    1. Yikes! I'd never heard of that before! I noticed there are different *kinds* of magnesium, though; could that be part of it? Like I use Magnesium Citrate, but there's also Magnesium Oxide - and maybe others as well. Might be worth investigating, since it could be one of the additives causing the trouble, not the magnesium itself. (Not that I'd want to risk another episode of hives, if I were you!)

      Delete
    2. The best magnesium to take is dimagnesium malate; less likely to cause reactions, best absorbed etc.
      I get mine here:
      http://www.jigsawhealth.com/supplements/magnesium?source=cj
      I take it for migraines myself, but noticed much less cramping (and less ibuprofen-popping) since I have been on it!!

      Delete
    3. you could try a topical magnesium supplment called "ancient minerals". spray on and let sit for 15 minutes (it might itch) then shower.

      you could also take a bath with epson salts.

      I take natural calm magnesium citrate (makes a yummy orange beverage) at night. Helps with restless leg syndrome, muscle soreness from crossfit and based on my reading, if you have enough Mg is your system prior to pregnancy, helps prevent morning sickness. YAY magnesium!

      We used to get this mineral all the time because our cooking used homemade bone broths. Now we buy 'stock' if we cook at all.

      Delete
    4. The hives could be a reaction to something else in the supplements- one of the binding agents or inactive ingredients. We thought I was allergic to hydrocortisone for YEARS until my doctor suggested that it was likely an ingredient in the cream and not the active ingredient itself. As a small scale eczema sufferer and someone who is allergic to mosquitoes (bites always swell and scab) it was so great to discover I could get some OTC topical itch relief! Aveeno is my cream of choice.

      Delete
  20. You know, this holds water with me. My favorite thing to do when in cramp pain is to lie on my stomach on a hard surface with extra vim, which is actually the same thing (with far less portability or social acceptability) as a corset. In fact, when things go really bad, I actually have been known to compress my gut with my hands. So, this is reasonable.

    And now - you have hacked up an ingenious more portal solution! Well done. And thanks for sharing. And also, *love* both your blogs.

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    Replies
    1. I would think the corset would help, when I went into labor (which is, lets face it, menstrual cramps on massive steroids) I wanted to curl forward, compressing my belly to try and relieve it...

      Delete
  21. My mum is a nurse & she's told me I needed to take magnesium to help prevent leg cramps when I run (I'm still new to running) and I have found it helps with other cramps too, happy coincidence :)
    I've found the multivitamin thing to be one of the best things ever.
    The corset thing isn't weird. It happened to me one Halloween when I was wearing this Victorian gown & going out as Mina Harker. I thought it was a coincidence though. I'm definitely going to invest in a better fitting one (lost weight since that party, yay).
    Love your blog for stuff like this - it's way better than Cosmo!
    ~erin kristine

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  22. Interesting! I wonder if the "belly bands" they sell for during or post-pregnancy would have a similar effect.

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  23. I used to have horrid cramps until I went on the pill, only happens occasionally now. I do find that some compression does help tho.

    Oh and I think that Dartha would be a good first name for Lady Vadore, I had a friend who's name was that.

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  24. Interesting. I might try the magnesium the next time I want to rip out my uterus and stomp all over it.

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  25. One thing that seriously helped my cramping issues was switching to a DivaCup. I can't explain why. But I guess it goes with what Laura E said.

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    Replies
    1. Before my ablation that's all I used, since I could never get tampons to work comfortably. I can't remember if it helped any with my cramps, but it's great for heavy bleeders!

      Delete
  26. I am so trying this next month, although I have to admit the thought of putting on something tight at "that time" does freak me out. On the other hand, I don't think it could make my pain any worse...

    Thanks for the tip, Jen.

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  27. I didn't know about the compression garments. I used to push and tightly hold my abdomen to make the pain lessen. I emailed you a longer personal version of what I went through - not sure you will receive it as you receive massive amounts of mail. Thank you for these personal posts - I'm sure they've helped many more people than you will ever know.

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  28. I used to get terrible cramps. I would swear all my insides were falling out. When I switched from tampons to a Diva Cup the cramps completely disappeared. I have no idea what the difference would be, but several women I have talked to have experienced the same thing.

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  29. My dear hippy MIL got me started on Calcium/Magnesium caps as they are what she claims to be "anti-spasmodic"...is that a real word? Works like a dream...

    Also, and this might seem really strange, but hubby is a military guy and so gone alot....I noticed when he is away, my monthly is very tolerable and not painful at all...when he is home though...raging cramps. Does the presense of testosterone have any influence on this stuff? (I really do like him...bunches and bunches, so thats not the issue)

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  30. You know what, this makes a lot of sense. Usually when I'm having a bad cramp day, my default position is hugging a pillow/folded blanket tightly to my abdomen, and I always seem to feel better. I always thought it was a mental thing, but hmmmm!

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  31. Interesting...maybe there's a reason corsets were so popular in the era before over-the-counter painkillers (that weren't opiates)! :)

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  32. hm yes, also for the women that suffer the opposite problem on their period (diarrhea, hey i work in gastroenterology i have NO SHAME), advil actually helps the diarrhea slow down woot!

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    Replies
    1. I can testify to that; that's why I have to AVOID advil & alieve during my time! Hah!

      Delete
    2. Alicia, advil helps all that?! I don't have cramps much any more (I have no idea why they stopped all of a sudden..I will take it though) but my diet basically is water and maybe some bread during my period. Pretty much everything I put in my mouth makes my stomach very ill. So much so I practically don't eat for 5 day or I live off of Pepto when I am going somewhere where I know I will be eating.

      I am so happy that I found this out! I oddly enough was just talking about corsets with a friend yesterday and I was telling him I found them very comfortable to wear in general. It's nice to know that if my cramps came back I could put one on and have an added bonus to wearing one!

      Delete
    3. Storm the KlingonMay 23, 2013 at 2:31 AM

      You need to eat yogurt *with active cultures*, as does anyone else who gets The Trots during The Curse; the Good Bugs in the active cultures eat up the Bad Bugs that are messing up your gut. It'll settle ya better than Pepto, though not quite as quickly (depending on your metabolism), and it has nutritional value. It also won't give you the Temporary and Harmless Darkening of the Stool that Pepto often does.

      Cheers, thanks a lot,

      Storm

      Delete
  33. I found drinking a cup of coffee as my cramps start makes them go away and stay away! Everywhere I've read says caffeine makes cramps worse, coffee helps mine!

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    Replies
    1. I have noticed the same thing! I always make sure to drink coffee now, and haven't had any really horrible cramps or back pain.

      Delete
    2. Storm the KlingonMay 23, 2013 at 3:17 AM

      Here's your Friendly Neighbourhood Klingon Broad with another Fun Fact!

      Midol is nothing but Excedrin (aspirin, Tylenol, and caffeine), with an added diuretic to make you pee out water weight. Also, Excedrin Migraine is EXACTLY THE SAME as regular Excedrin, and Tylenol PM is just Tylenol with BENADRYL.

      I'm telling you. Pharmaceutical companies are some shady bastards.

      Your Pal,

      Storm

      Delete
  34. I'll have to try that magnesium trick...For Science!

    Also, please consider that there are some men out there with uteri and therefore menstrual cramps.

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  35. As an athlete, we were always taught by our athletic trainers and team doctors to load up on potassium (bananas, or if you don't like bananas, through a supplement) if we were having cramping issues. Always seemed to work for leg cramps and hand cramps. Having recently had the wicked menstrual cramps of my youth come back, I made two changes, switched birth control pills, and found a multi-vitamin with more potassium in it. Don't know how much the blessed relief from cramps has been because of one versus the other, but, on those days where you want to curl up and die, if eating a banana/getting your potassium levels up another way, is a quick and easy something to try.

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    1. I've noticed magnesium & potassium often go hand-in-hand, so this makes sense to me. When I was hospitalized some years back for a racing heart, both of my levels were critically low, so I was on mag. & potass. IVs for four solid days. I wonder if one drags the other down, or if they just react the same way? I actually have supplements for both, so I'll try throwing in an extra potassium in the future.

      Delete
    2. Potassium, really? Interesting. The only thing that gets rid of the I'm-going-to-throw-up feeling is potato chips. And the occasional Snickers. But mostly the chips.

      They aren't helping my weight, however.

      I had honestly given up on living normally for that week. And the headaches during the weeks before and after are no picnic, either. Your post and the comments have given me a glimmer of hope... Maybe I'll get brave and start experimenting. Thank you!

      Delete
    3. Michele, if chips are helping, it could be your body is low on salts. My mom used to be an RN, and she often talks about craving salt when your electrolytes (including mag. & potass.) are too low. If that's so, maybe the supplements will help you!

      Delete
  36. I have found that shape wear helps me, I would just always put it on because it would always happen on nights we plan some going out thing and I would feel bloated. I was never sure if it was in my head or not.

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  37. If you want to really get into freak-out-the-guys territory...

    Several of my friends have started using a Diva Cup on their periods. They all complained of terrible cramps all the time and suddenly, when they switched from tampons to the Diva Cup, their cramps subsided significantly to completely. They were freaked/grossed out by the thought initially, but have said that it's really not that bad and the lack of cramps has made it completely worthwhile.

    I'm still nursing my first so I haven't had a chance to experience this for myself yet but as soon as my period comes back regularly, I think I'll give it a shot.

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    Replies
    1. Oh yes, Diva Cups are great! It's all I used before my ablation. I don't remember much change in my cramps, but it's definitely the most comfortable and clean option. (Well, except when it comes time to change it out. Ha! For that, I learned to pack medical gloves in my purse. :D)

      Delete
    2. Brilliant! Gloves! I can usually avoid changing it when I'm out and about, but this is a fantastic idea for when it is unavoidable. I'm always thrilled to hear about other Diva Dup devotees! May, I have noticed less cramping since using the cup, but I also started using it after my first baby, so I don't know if it has anything to do with the cup or just changes from having given birth.

      Delete
    3. Wow, when I wrote out my post, there was only one other comment that didn't mention the Diva Cup. Now I see that I am quite far behind in my suggestion and not by any means the only one to suggest it. I'm glad to see it's so popular! Hooray for hippies!

      I will remember the medical gloves. Genius.

      Delete
    4. Storm the KlingonMay 23, 2013 at 3:23 AM

      There is nothing on Bowie's green and verdant adopted planet that could get me to try a DivaCup. No. No, thank you. My Scots-Irish hillbilly ancestresses fought and died so I didn't have to crap in an outhouse, much less go fishing around in my bleeding womanly wound for a bit of rubber. I love you, but you're all crazy as a bag of hangers.

      Cheers,

      Storm

      Delete
    5. Dear Storm,

      You just made me LOL in class. Thanks for that. :)
      (And thanks for articulating what I couldn't really find words to express! Ha!)

      Delete
  38. I love the fact you write about EVERYTHING. Good, bad, icky or fun. YOu should stress the "properly fitted and worn" aspect of a corset. A custome made corset is rather comfortable, ask any female opera singer. And compression does work to ease those wretched cramps. So,thank you Jen!

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  39. No experience with corsets, but I thought of something when you mentioned magnesium for cramps. For "normal" cramps, e.g. in calves, it helps tremendously to apply pressure to points slightly below and to the side of your nose, on the roots of your eye teeth, with two fingers. Experiment a bit to find the right spot. One moment your leg is cramping and in pain, the next everything is fine. The muscle is slightly sore but the cramp does not come back. Works like magic! Even while diving. Funnily enough it never occured to me to try it for menstrual cramps. Perhaps because those creep up you you instead of just hitting out of the blue.

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  40. Just this week I read about magnesium on another site I follow, one more focused on women's health. They mentioned that is also has benefits on anxiety, among the other things it does like relax muscles and cramps. I've ordered some magnesium citrate and I'm going to give it a try!

    I did an epsom salt bath one night just to try some magnesium absorption, and I was practically falling asleep the next day, though, I was so relaxed :p

    Here's the article in particular that piqued my interest:

    http://www.paleoforwomen.com/soul-crushing-stress-and-the-miracle-of-magnesium/

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    Replies
    1. I've read the same things, plus Magnesium is supposed to help migraines, so really, it's my favorite wonder-supplement at the moment. ;)

      Delete
  41. Thank you for being open to posting this! I will try compression, too. I've been using Calcium, which is with Magnesium in a lot of athletic supplements for reducing cramps. The Calcium works pretty well, but I've still had to use other stuff, too. The other thing I've been known to do is buy those heat wraps (thermacare) that are basically a heating pad that you wear - it sticks to the inside of your clothes. They make one for the neck/shoulders that approximates the shape you need. But they're expensive and can be uncomfortable in summertime. In winter, however, they rock.

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  42. LOL @ Anonymous (2013-05-22 01:59am)

    I think I have an idea how it helps...when you are cramping what do you often do automatically? Rub your abdomen or roll up in a ball, this compresses the area and relieves pain. The pain we feel during menstruation is from our muscles tiring out trying to expel the menses. In this case the corset essentially "massages" away the pain as it occurs. If you watch a body builder work out, they often apply pressure to a limb as they are straining to lift the weights. They can lift more that way and build muscle faster by pushing themselves. It is by no means a safe method, but it has to be better than steroids at least.

    There is no way that a corset would stop your menses altogether, they just don't compress that much. You would have to squish your waist down to less than half its size to stop the bleeding and the moment you took off the corset it would all come out.

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  43. The ThermaCare heating pads also work wonders when you have really bad cramps--I heard about them from a friend and the results were nothing short of miraculous. I've also heard that for some women, using menstrual cups instead of pads or tampons was helpful in reducing cramps. Good luck!

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  44. I have always found that when I cramp that I curl into a ball and press my fists in. So of course it makes sense about pressure (especially if you bloat... aka swell - you compress other injuries like that!). I've always found that I cramp less with tampons too - but only with the heavy Flo. Light Flo likes pads. Tummy massages at that time are the bomb too!

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  45. Oh, if only I had known this when I was 11! I don't need this now, but Jen -- thank you for sharing. I am hoping this information goes out and multiplies and gives relief to the many who need it.

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  46. I never thought of wearing my fat-sucker at "that time." Whenever I have a lot of menstrual pain, I always find myself laying on my stomach with my fists balled up in the painful area to help push the pain away. It helps me, but it's difficult to get through a day at work doing that. I will definitely try this out the next go round!

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  47. Thankfully my cramps usually aren't too bad (my sympathies for those whose are!) but I just wanted to chime in about the magnesium supplements--some people have issues absorbing magnesium internally and do better with Epsom salt baths. I can only think that Epsom salt baths might be even better during the cycle (um, as long as you don't think too much about what you're adding to the water, that is ...) because heat from a bath can also help ease cramps.

    Also? Epsom salt baths are fabulous just for achy muscles in general--legs, back, whatever. Solid win, in my book.

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  48. Weirdly enough, my chiropractor once told me that if you crave chocolate, magnesium supplements will help. So maybe the cramps and the chocolate cravings around that time of month are all related to a magnesium deficiency? Hmm...

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    Replies
    1. I'd heard we actually crave chocolate during our periods because chocolate is high in magnesium! So yes, could be!

      Delete
  49. I dealt with killer cramps most of my life until I had surgery 2 months ago. Don't let doctors tell you that killer cramps are normal!! I had raging endometriosis, and finally found a doctor who gave a damn. I got it taken care of (at least for now--there's no official cure for everyone yet), and I've hardly had any cramps since. What I have had was negligable. I personally don't think I could even consider wearing my ren-fest corset during cramps before. But now it won't even be an issue.

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  50. I appreciate you sharing some of these girl-centric posts! With the magnesium side effect- I always thought it was just me. I haven't tried a corset, but I found that general pressure did.

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  51. I love you, Jen. Thanks for writing this--my daughter is 13 and her cramps are so bad she misses school. I think we've got a tube thing in our future...

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    1. Trisha, I remember being in high school and having cramps so bad I would throw up. (yes, at school--ugh). My parents always allowed me to stay home any time I said I felt sick, and I appreciate it to this day. It showed their trust of me, their respect of my listening to my own body--and so it came to be where I was staying home when on the first day of my period, if I was fortunate to know about it in advance. (Or when I did not have something really important at school I did not miss)

      So, anytime you let your daughter stay home is loving and good. : )

      And for her--would you please ask her Dr if she can take anaprox? (OTC as Aleve) It was THE ONLY pain med that worked for my cramps, and it worked like a charm. Once you get the dosage cleared, just don't be afraid to take way more than the package recommends-the OTC doses are much lower than what the Dr prescribed me in the prescription form. So ask her Dr what would be right for her--for me, it was the equivalent of 4 Aleve.

      If she is using tampons, or plastic disposable pads, her cramps might be worse from those too.

      Delete
  52. Long time reader, first time poster ... I used to have major issues with cramping all my life that would result in me spending the first day of my cycle in bed and barely able to move. What finally sent me to the doctor was a searing pain in my abdomen that I thought might have been the result of endometriosis (which runs in my family). Turns out it was a massive fibroid. Thankfully I found a doctor who could help. She prescribed progesterone (the same thing that women take to increase the likelihood of pregnancy) and it regulated everything. It look about a year but now I am almost pain free.

    If such a thing isn't an option (and I get why it wouldn't be) might I suggest the following for your cramps: First off, a heating bag on the small of the back works wonders. I don't know why but it seems to soothe the muscles and lessen the cramping. The other thing is something that I like to call magic tea. It's one bag of chamomile and one bag of mint (any kind will do). Let them steep in boiled water for about 5 minutes and drink with sugar or honey to taste. Again, I have no idea why it works, but it really helps to ease the cramping. the one caveat though is, if you suffer from hayfever the chamomile can set off an attack. Also, there is allegedly a slight risk that the combination could cause an early term miscarriage, so pregnant women should be careful.

    Oh, and can I just say that I adore your Lady Vadore costume. Absolutely adore it!

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  53. Interesting! We've addressed menstrual pain as part of my osteopathic education, but never talked about corsets & compression. However, I do have a theory. Fact: The nerve supply to your lady-bits leaves the spinal cord in your lower back (and also in your tailbone, but that's a different type of nerve & signal) at the same levels as the nerve supply to your lower gut and to the muscles of your back. Fact: you can get these wires crossed and thus irritation of one structure (such as your uterus) can induce another (gut or muscles) to be all pissy. This is called a viscero-somatic reflex (if it's affecting the skeletal muscles) or viscero-visceral reflex (if it's another organ, like gut or lungs or heart, etc) -- which explains the back pain, diarrhea/constipation, etc that come along with all the menstruating and childbirthing fun. Fact: Pressure on an area that hurts helps to inhibit the neuronal pain signal. (There's a biochemical/nerve signalling explanation, but it also just makes sense: if you bang your funny bone, you immediately grab that elbow; pressing on a muscle knot "hurts so good" but *does* feel better the longer you hold it, even if you're just pushing and not massaging it out.) Ergo, my hypothesis: The pressure from a corset or compression band has a nice, inhibitory effect on the pain neurons of the back musculature, which induces a calming effect on the uterus, thanks to the crossed wires at the spinal cord.

    On a related note -- since we know you're pro-manipulation to begin with -- you should consider talking to your chiropractor or (even better!) a DO. It's possible that getting treated to address the menstrual pain could make such a difference that you'd be able to completely manage it with compression & magnesium, not just tolerate, and get surgery off the table. No one wants to get cut open if there are less-invasive options that work.

    As always, thank you so much for being so open about this! Womankind is a better place because of your over-share bravery. =) Take care!

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  54. In medical school we menstrual cramps were caused by the contraction of the uterus mediated by hormones called prostoglandins; if the contractions were strong enough it was painful. We never really learned why but I always assumed it would be the same reason the contraction of any hollow organ is painful which is because there are nerves that fire when stretched, creating a pain signal. So my thought was: maybe the corset could help by continuously compressing the uterus which would get the nerves used to being stretched so they would stop firing.
    I looked online to see if I could find any evidence of this and I also found a few devices specifically patented for relieving menstrual cramps by compression including this one: http://www.ziivaa.com/how-it-works. It postulates that the pain from menstrual cramps comes from the contraction of the uterus pulling on surrounding tissue. So the support garment...well, supports the surrounding tissue so it can't be pulled on as much.
    The other common theory for menstrual cramp pain is that the contraction of the uterus cuts off blood flow temporarily, causing a loss of oxygen to tissue which is painful (consider heart attacks or "side stitches"). I can't really see any way that the support garment would prevent this sort of pain.
    So it's possible that whether or not the garment works might be related to how strong the uterine contractions are. Stronger contractions may cause more loss of blood flow and compression might actually worsen the pain in that case. (Note that how bad your pain feels may have nothing to do with how strong the contractions are as pain sensitivity is a pretty complex process).

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  55. Until you got to the part about wearing the compression band, I was willing to bet a whole lotta money that the lack of cramps the first time was due to adrenaline alone. The excitement of being around that many people and so enthusiastic about everything works wonders (my boyfriend ran 15 miles on a stress fracture during a very crowded marathon, and the pain was only bad when there were no cheering spectators).

    But sports stores sell compression sleeves for athletic training - basically tiny little elastic shapewear, but for your calves or arms. I think the idea is that it increases the blood flow to the area, decreases pain and improves performance. Maybe the corset/shapewear is performing a similar function? (That or it's somehow related to the "if you put pressure on something, it's harder to feel pain there because you overwhelm the pain-transmitting neurons" thing. You whack your head on the car while getting out, the first thing you do is rub the spot. If you don't rub the spot, it hurts a lot worse!)

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    1. I can testify to the powers of adrenaline! In high school I fractured my foot during my senior year of track and didn't want to stop running, so I got the doctor to give me an air cast so I could take it off when I needed. I ran two weekends of state meets that way! During warm-ups I would cry and cry because of the pain, but as soon as the gun went off, I just ran my guts out and never thought twice about the pain, until about two steps after the finish line, then I cried like a baby for a few hours again!

      Delete
  56. I've found that drinking lots of fluids helps with cramping. I'm not sure why, but it really works for me. I'd love to try the corset, but I've yet to find one that fits. I'm 6' and have issues with clothing hitting me in the right spots. I've found dresses and corsets are among the worst since they are usually designed for someone several inches shorter. They always hit me about 1" above where they should.

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    1. As a 5' shorty, I feel your pain in the opposite direction! Ha! There are some great corset sellers on Etsy who do custom work, though; that might be your only option if you want to try an actual corset. For these purposes, though, you can always try out some shapewear to see if it helps!

      Delete
    2. Hi Amy,

      I'm only 5'8", however, I have an extremely long torso. The gal who runs this site Generations of Art will custom make corsets/bodices, and is really reasonably priced. I've now purchased two from her, and they are by far the most comfortable of my corsets (yes, I have several more than two). I highly recommend her!

      She also sells an Assasin's Creed version that is wicked cool!

      Delete
    3. corset-story.com has a good selection of corsets designed for tall women. Just make sure you get one that says "long-line" I got one of these by mistake once, and at 5'6" I'm certainly not tall, and it was so long it passed below my hips and dug into my breasts. OUCH. Of course, when I went back and checked the description of the product it said "for women 5'8" and taller" oops.

      Delete
  57. Laura:

    Have you tried just the compression, no tampons? I find it doesn't matter what I wear, as long as I don't stick one of those campire teabags up in me. That's like purchasing a one-way ticket to Pain City.

    YMMV, of course, but, hey. It's worth a shot?

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  58. I shall try the corset thing. Knowledge is power! ;)

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  59. Oh, and the magnesium makes complete sense because it is a smooth muscle relaxant. We use it for all sorts of smooth muscle spasms (asthma, preterm labor). Since menstrual cramps are the smooth muscle contracting, using magnesium would decrease the frequency/intensity of these contractions.
    And as I mentioned before the contractions of the uterus are caused by a hormone called prostaglandin, which is blocked by NSAIDS (ibuprofen/naproxen/aspirin) and that's why taking ibuprofen is more helpful typically than tylenol. If you start taking ibuprofen the day before you expect your period, it can be very helpful.

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    1. Thank you so much for saying so! I got on here just to point out that NSAIDS are better for menstrual cramps, barring allergies. There was a time during nursing school when I could explain about pain cascades and prostaglandin inhibitors, but that brain cell died.

      And everyone, please be careful before starting to take magnesium or potassium, especially in large doses. With the period is one thing, routinely can really mess with electrolyte levels and screw up your heart. Don't screw up your heart. Check with a doc.

      That said, taking a calcium/magnesium supplement with an Aleve starting a day or two before my period changed my life, and I'm excited to try the compression idea for those bad breakthrough days.

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  60. If you balance calcium with magnesium, it doesn't have the laxative effect. They used to say 2:1 for the ratio between the two with calcium being the higher amount; but I think now they are saying most of us get enough calcium and not enough magnesium, so a 1:1 or 1:2 is better.

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  61. The openbust camisole ebay has hilarious instructions!
    'Crouche down for several times and adjust the panty'. 'Straight the body. Push the flab into the bodysuit'.

    In terms of pressure, I know I always prefer a wheatpack with a bit of weight - the heat and pressure really helps, I can see how a corset would do the same.

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  62. Thank you for posting this! I've been wibbling back and forth over whether or not to get one (a corset, that is) for this precise reason, as well as some mild back problems due to my ladies.
    Also, useful for costumes. Yay! :)
    Do you have any suggestions for sites/brands? Wading through the "sketchy" websites doesn't give me much confidence, but I know there's a corset out there for me!
    Again, thanks and kudos. :)

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    1. I bought mine from Corset Story, and while I'm very happy with the quality (especially considering how inexpensive they were), I don't know how those would do for regular wear. There are a couple of custom corset makers on Etsy that I've heard great things about...but now I can't remember the shop names. Gah! Can anyone else help me out here?

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    2. I mentioned it above, but Generations of Art is my favorite. She does it based on your measurements, and they're really well made. I've worn mine dozens of times!

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    3. I have bought several corsets from corset-story and I have enjoyed them. They aren't designed to last for years and years, but with your first few corsets I've found that's okay because it takes some time to learn which styles you prefer. Also, it will slim out your waist and you'll find that even if you don't tightlace you'll probably need a size or two smaller after a few months.

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  63. As I have gotten older my cycles have gotten much worse. I have one of those shape things that I rarely wear but I will try it come next month! Yeah for helpful suggestions!

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  64. It makes sense. Back when I used to experience severe, debilitating cramping, I found that pressing the heating pad into my abdomen while lying down waiting for the ibuprofen to kick in (Tylenol is my go-to for headaches but it never did a thing for my cramps) and put me to sleep seemed to feel better than not pressing, but I assumed it was the heat. I went on birth control pills a few years ago mainly to control the bad periods, and luckily it has worked pretty well (knock wood). I only get minor twinges now and then that are easily taken care of by a couple of ibuprofen.

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  65. Liquid magnesium citrate is what the docs tell you to take to clean you out prior to any surgery or a colonoscopy exam. It taste pretty vile, so when I had a minor surgery 2 years ago, I just kept taking mag citrate pills until I got the necessary results. Much more pleasant than trying to get past my gag reflex!

    Magnesium malate helps prevent muscle aches. The mag malate helps prevent/reduce the build up of lactic acid in the muscles, which is what causes the aching. Great trick if you're a weekend warrior of any sort, or simply doing a lot of atypical exercise (like lugging boxes during a move, or for me, usually a weekend of horse camping where I'm spending 6-8 hours in the saddle several days in a row, instead of the usual random 2-4 hours a couple times a week).

    Magnesium is also good for asthma. Evidently many asthmatics are also magnesium deficient (sorry, it's been several years since I researched it, but Googling it will turn up all kinds of reference information). For me, it works within about 20 minutes, and the effect can last several days. Using magnesium significantly reduces the severity and duration of my asthma attacks, which means all the rest of my meds work more effectively. My asthma ranges from being mostly a non-issue (other than the frustration of being unable to hold an extended note while singing with the radio), to being so severe that just sitting and breathing is physically exhausting. Normally I take the mag malate, but liquid mag sulfate via IV is common in hospitals. :)

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  66. I can absolutely believe that pressure relieves menstrual cramps... because in high school, when I would get the worst cramps, I would lay on the couch and have my 70lb sister sit on my pelvis. It totally worked.

    Soaking your feet in Epsom salts (magnesium sulfate) can help with magnesium levels too, while making your feet nice and soft. Not sure if this would be enough to help with cramps, though.

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  67. I don't have corset experience but wanted to weigh in that I experience more menstrual pain and cramping when using tampons. My theory is that they're a little TOO absorbent! I've been using a Diva cup for several years now and regularly *forget* that its that time of the month. (Until I get a little moody and suddenly remember again!)

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  68. You might want to edit this: "believe me when I say this will absolutely alleviate some or all of the pain."

    You can't guarantee that this will work for everyone. I'm glad it works for you, but this reads like a huckster, which I know is not what you're going for.

    You shouldn't take Tylenol for cramps - you need a prostoglandin inhibitor such as aspirin or other NSAID. Tylenol may help the pain, but they'll do nothing to stop the cramps (best to take them before you expect to start your period, or if you can't, as soon as cramps appear).

    One thing I have noted - you get far too much of your medical advice from the Internet, much of it rather suspect. Perhaps you need to read some good entry-level biology and medical books before you hand out advice.

    It's OK to share your own experience, as long as you label it as such, but you're really not qualified to hand out medical advice.

    I enjoy your blog, so don't take this as overly judgmental, and while I laud the Internet and the info available there, one does need to be critical. There is advice out there that can cause harm if one is not knowledgeable enough to judge.

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    1. Thanks for the note, Kathleen; I've just edited the offending line. I always try to qualify everything I say about health-related matters, and to make it clear this is *my* experience, and everyone should always do their own research/consult with their own doctors.

      As for getting too much advice from "the Internet," though, in this day and age that's like saying, "you get too much advice from talking to other people and reading." The internet may house a lot of misinformation, but it also houses just as many accurate medical studies, doctor-written articles, etc. etc. Of course we have to be discerning, and of course we have to consult with the real experts - our doctors - for anything serious, but I would never slam anything out of hand just because it came from "the internet." As long as you're discerning about where to go and what to read, the internet can be an extremely valuable teaching tool.

      The only relief and real answers I've ever found regarding my anxiety came from my research online, where half a dozen doctors would have left me on harmful beta-blockers (my heart rate was dipping into the low 40s/high 30s at night) and unnecessary Prozac. I've read quite a few medical books - even one textbook on the endocrine system (not that I retained much of it!) - but even then it was only through the advice of people who've experienced the same things I have that I found treatments that actually helped. The same goes for my menstrual problems, to a lesser extent: every time I complained to my MD he tried to put me on Prozac. For menstrual pain! And my last OB-GYN wanted to force my body into early menopause for 6 months - "just to see if it helps." o.0

      So, yeah, I'm a strong advocate of learning everything you can about your issues yourself, just so you can make a better informed decision. That's only my two cents, though, and of course everyone should read everything *I* say with just as much skepticism. ;)

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    2. One of the most beautiful things about the Internet is that it brings people together over commonalities (anything from medical issues to book or television show obsessions) who likely would never have been brought together otherwise. We can learn from each other and each other's experiences and most importantly, we learn that we are not alone in our quirks, obsessions, or maladies.

      Frankly, anyone who takes anything they read on the Internet as gospel truth and follows each and every piece of advice to the letter deserves what they get. Individuals should only be held accountable for their own actions. It would be impossible to hold a writer or blogger accountable for the actions of his or her readers.

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    3. All I have to say to add to this discussion is that most medical publications are archived on 'the internet' and searchable and viewable by the general public. Dismissing this information or the conclusion a person has come to because of this information would be a terrible mistake to make.

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    4. Storm the KlingonMay 23, 2013 at 3:36 AM

      ..."Perhaps you need to read some good entry-level biology and medical books before you hand out advice. It's OK to share your own experience, as long as you label it as such, but you're really not qualified to hand out medical advice."

      Good Goddess... condescending much? Once again, she is sharing with us in HER BLOG what she has observed and what works for her, after YEARS of the medical community letting her down. If the answers were all in those magic books, would she still be in pain?

      What. Ever.

      Storm

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  69. I love you Jen! When my daughter begins to wean, I will have try a compression thingy. I was always against modern corset wearing (Save for costuming purposes) until I started reading the American Duchess blog! Her company sells historic footwear, but the blog is also about all the period costumes she makes and wears. Fun stuff!

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  70. I've never worn a corset, but this makes total sense to me! Whenever I'm crampy, if I just push into my gut with my hands (or my husband's hands, or the edge of a desk :), it makes me feel better. It's just hard to do that for hours on end. :P

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  71. This has nothing to do with my experiences with cramps or anything, but if you look at the picture of the woman in the slim belt, the wall behind her gets "wobbly" next to her torso. Photoshop anyone?

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  72. Here's one research study: http://online.liebertpub.com/doi/abs/10.1089/10755530260128050

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  73. I'll have to give this a try next time around. Most times my cramps are pretty dang horrific & I live on ibuprofen. I find it interesting that so many in the comments say tampons make their cramps worse, though. Mine don't until it's time for a change. Plus for those worried about the bleached and whatever else tampons there are all natural ones available. I'm gonna have to check out the moon cup thing, though. I have a heavy flow (every timeiI say that I think of Mean Girls- "I can't help that I have a heavy flow and wide set vagina") so the cost of tampons is kind of ridiculous for me. So there's my TMI story, haha. Also, Jen, I'm glad you talk about this stuff. The scoop & swoop has helped a lot even with my not so large knockers. :P

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  74. I can't speak for corsets, but I can tell you that pressure on my abdomen definitely helps when I am having cramps. I have polycystic ovarian syndrome which can cause REALLY heavy periods along with severe cramps and many times during the week I am *suppposed* to be ovulating, I can feel the cysts enlarge and sometimes even burst (sorry for the TMI) and often the only thing that helps is direct and heavy pressure exactly the way @Denise mentioned. I can't explain it, but it definitely helps.

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  75. I love that you wrote about this, and about how enthusiastic the discussion is. So, even though by this point who knows if anyone will read this far down to my two cents. . .

    When I was in college and the cramps were horrible, I remember lying on a sofa in my dorm room and asking my boyfriend (now husband) to sit on my stomache. Ahhhh, that felt so good! So I have never forgotten the whole compression thing, and sometimes try to get a heavy but comfy weight pressing into me if the cramps get bad. I guess it's fortunate that I'm getting old now--in my early 40's the cramps are not nearly as bad, as the whole system is slowing down and getting less efficient. But just thought I would share--helping "support" your corset claims for those nay-sayers.

    As for tampons--yes, they definitely make cramping worse, which is why I never use them. It sounds like a lot of your