Back Pain During Your Period? Here’s How to Get Relief

Learn how to get relief from menstrual-related back pain with exercises and stretches recommended by physical therapists.

Published Date: Feb 16, 2024
woman-with-back-pain

Back Pain During Your Period? Here’s How to Get Relief

Learn how to get relief from menstrual-related back pain with exercises and stretches recommended by physical therapists.

Published Date: Feb 16, 2024
woman-with-back-pain

Back Pain During Your Period? Here’s How to Get Relief

Learn how to get relief from menstrual-related back pain with exercises and stretches recommended by physical therapists.

Published Date: Feb 16, 2024
woman-with-back-pain

Back Pain During Your Period? Here’s How to Get Relief

Learn how to get relief from menstrual-related back pain with exercises and stretches recommended by physical therapists.

Published Date: Feb 16, 2024
woman-with-back-pain
Table of Contents

If you menstruate, you’re probably more than familiar with all the aches and pains that can happen before and during your period. One common experience is period back pain, which happens when your menstrual cramps contribute to tension in your low back muscles. You may feel muscle cramps in the area right behind your uterus, or you may experience a dull ache throughout your low back

While back pain during your period can certainly be uncomfortable, there’s a lot you can do to address it — including exercise. It may seem counterintuitive to get moving when you’re not feeling great, but some gentle activity can go a long way. “We know that exercise therapy can help reduce low back pain in general, and it’s equally as effective for low back pain related to periods,” says Sarah Kellen, PT, DPT, a physical therapist at Hinge Health who specializes in pelvic health. 

Here, learn more about what causes period back pain, along with how to treat it, especially with exercises recommended by Hinge Health physical therapists. 

Our Hinge Health Experts

Sarah Kellen, PT, DPT
Physical Therapist
Dr. Kellen is a Hinge Health Physical Therapist and board-certified orthopedic clinical specialist. She has a special interest in pregnancy and postpartum care.
Tamara Grisales, MD
Expert Physician in Urogynecology and Medical Reviewer
Dr. Grisales is a board-certified urogynecologist and surgeon and oversees the Women's Pelvic Health program at Hinge Health.
Kandis Daroski, PT, DPT
Pelvic Health Physical Therapist and Clinical Reviewer
Dr. Daroski is a pelvic health physical therapist who provides clinical expertise for the Hinge Health Women's Pelvic Health Program.

Causes of Back Pain During Your Period

Your period occurs when your uterus sheds its lining each month — the process involves several different hormones. Fluctuations in these hormones can cause physical (and emotional) symptoms that usually go away when a period ends. 

One common period symptom is cramping in the abdomen. This happens when your uterus is contracting as it sheds its lining. According to Dr. Kellen, some people experience low back pain in addition to or instead of typical pelvic cramps. “This pain usually feels achy, almost like the cramping is radiating around to the back,” she says. 

Typically, says Dr. Kellen, low back pain is worse right before your period, and it resolves as the period progresses and ends. That said, you don’t have to live with the discomfort — there are steps you can take to reduce period back pain. 

The good news: Back pain related to your period is usually very manageable. Consider any of the below at-home treatments for period back pain: 

  • Heat. Applying a heating pad to your low back can relax the tense muscles, which may relieve your pain. Taking a warm bath can also help.

  • Over-the-counter (OTC) medication. Pain relievers such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), naproxen (Aleve), and acetaminophen (Tylenol) can be helpful for period back pain as well as other period-related symptoms, like cramps and headaches. It’s important to make sure that you are safely able to take these medications, based on your medical history.

  • Eat nutritious food. Try to maintain a nutritious diet when you’re getting your period. The vitamins and minerals in fruits and vegetables can help reduce inflammation and promote healthy hormone function. Stay hydrated, too!

  • Relaxation techniques. Deep breathing and meditation can help your body shift out of stress mode, which Dr. Kellen says can help to dampen your experience of pain and, hopefully, make you more comfortable before and during your period.

Another important way to address period-related back pain is exercise. Getting up and moving can help relax tense muscles and reduce back pain. If you’re not sure where to start, a physical therapist can help you target movements that will help the most. You can see a physical therapist in person or use a program like Hinge Health to access a PT via telehealth/video visit.

The Importance of Movement for Period Pain Relief

While movement and exercise can help a lot with period back pain, it can be understandably challenging to build an exercise routine if you’re feeling crampy, run down, and in pain. Still, a bit of mindful movement can go a long way in managing your discomfort. Studies show regular exercise can reduce period-related symptoms, including pain, fatigue, and mood changes.

One reason movement is so helpful? “We know that exercise releases endorphins, which can help to dampen pain in the body,” says Dr. Kellen. Physical activity also increases blood flow in your muscles, which can help your low back muscles relax. As a bonus, you may also notice your mood improving when you exercise. 

Any type of movement can help get blood flowing in your muscles, but don’t overdo it. When you’d rather be on the couch or in bed, it makes sense to focus on gentle, restorative activities, like the ones recommended below. “Exercise doesn’t have to be super intense to benefit you,” says Dr. Kellen.

Exercises for Back Pain Relief During Your Period

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Any exercise can be beneficial for managing pain around your period. But if your goal is to specifically address period back pain, targeted movement is your best bet. “I always recommend gentle stretching that relieves tension and relaxes the body,” says Dr. Kellen. A PT can help you pinpoint the type of movement most likely to relieve your back pain, but the above exercises recommended by Hinge Health physical therapists are a great place to start. 

The information contained in these videos is intended to be used for educational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice or treatment for any specific condition. Hinge Health is not your healthcare provider and is not responsible for any injury sustained or exacerbated by your use of or participation in these exercises. Please consult with your healthcare provider with any questions you may have about your medical condition or treatment.

PT Tip: Tune In to Your Body

Whether you’re dealing with abdominal cramps, back pain, or other symptoms, don’t be afraid to get moving when period symptoms are bothering you. The key is to choose movement that actually feels good to your body. “See if simple stretches accompanied by deep breathing can help you relax, then incorporate other gentle exercises you enjoy,” says Dr. Kellen. “It’s okay to adapt to what you feel your body needs, which may be different during your period.”

How Hinge Health Can Help You 

If you have joint or muscle pain that makes it hard to move, you can get the relief you’ve been looking for with Hinge Health’s online exercise therapy program.

The best part: You don’t have to leave your home because our program is digital. That means you can easily get the care you need through our app, when and where it works for you.

Through our program, you’ll have access to therapeutic exercises and stretches for your condition. Additionally, you’ll have a personal care team to guide, support, and tailor our program to you.

See if you qualify for Hinge Health and confirm free coverage through your employer or benefit plan here.

This article and its contents are provided for educational and informational purposes only and do not constitute medical advice or professional services specific to you or your medical condition.

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References

  1. Sanchez, B. N., Kraemer, W. J., & Maresh, C. M. (2023). Premenstrual Syndrome and Exercise: A Narrative Review. Women, 3(2), 348–364. doi:10.3390/women3020026

  2. Shakeri, H., Fathollahi, Z., Karimi, N., & Arab, A. M. (2013). Effect of functional lumbar stabilization exercises on pain, disability, and kinesiophobia in women with menstrual low back pain: a preliminary trial. Journal of Chiropractic Medicine, 12(3), 160–167. doi:10.1016/j.jcm.2013.08.005

  3. Turci, A. M., Nogueira, C. G., Nogueira Carrer, H. C., & Chaves, T. C. (2023). Self-administered stretching exercises are as effective as motor control exercises for people with chronic non-specific low back pain: a randomised trial. Journal of Physiotherapy, 69(2), 93–99. doi:10.1016/j.jphys.2023.02.016