One of the key benefits of exercise is that it helps reduce menstrual cramping. But sometimes, it has the opposite effect. If you experience menstrual-like cramping during exercise, there are a number of possible causes, and some of them are potentially serious. If you regularly experience cramping during exercise, or the pain is severe, you should consult your doctor for tests to rule out any serious medical issues.
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Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Menstrual like cramping during exercise may be related to irritable bowel syndrome. Symptoms include severe abdominal cramps, which can occur at any time. More women than men have the condition, so if you have related symptoms such as constipation, bloating, gas, diarrhea and nausea you should consult your doctor. If you have been diagnosed with IBS, diet modification and timing your exercise and eating can help relieve symptoms.
Hypothyroidism occurs when your thyroid is underactive and does not make enough thyroid hormone. The symptoms include excessively painful cramping before and during your menstrual period. Make a note of when the menstrual like cramps during exercise occur – if you find they fall around your period, you may wish to get your thyroid tested.
Unexplained cramping during exercise can be a result of hormones. Menstrual cramps are caused by hormones related to your period, and intense exercise may trigger a hormonal response during other times of your cycle. Take an nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory like ibuprofen or naproxen before you exercise to stave off problems.
Should you suddenly begin to experience cramps, but you haven't had your period, you might be pregnant. Menstrual like cramps are common in the first trimester. These may occur during exercise, or come at random. If you think you might be pregnant, or are taking a form of birth control that suppresses your periods, or causes irregular periods, you may want to take a pregnancy test to eliminate the possibility.
- “Doctor's Guide to Natural Medicine”; Paul Barney; 1998
- “Running on Empty: Hypothyroidism, Introduction to an Underactive Thyroid Gland”; Robyn Koumourou; 2004
- “Bicycling Magazine's Complete Book of Road Cycling Skills”; Ed Pavelka; 1998
- “Pregnancy for Dummies”; Sarah Jarvis; 2005
- “Conquering Irritable Bowel Syndrome”; Nicholas J. Talley; 2006
- “The Encyclopedia of Women's Health”; Christine Ammer; 2009
Is this an emergency? If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, please see the National Library of Medicine’s list of signs you need emergency medical attention or call 911.