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Best Painkillers for Period Pain


Period pain is very common in people who have periods, but it can affect everyone differently. Whether you experience mild symptoms or your period pains are severe, painkillers may be the best option for you. But with the vast range of painkillers available, which ones are actually effective in relieving period pain? In this guide, we take you through the good and the bad pain relief options for period pain and some alternatives if medication is not for you.

  • What is Period Pain?
  • The Best Painkillers for Period Pain
  • Other Treatments for Period Pain
  • When You Should See a Doctor
  • Tackle Period Pain with Home Health


What is Period Pain?

Period pain is also known as dysmenorrhoea in the medical world. Ranging from mild to severe, period pain affects everyone differently but is commonly comprised of:

  • Pain in your stomach at the start of your period
  • Cramps that spread from your stomach to your back and thighs
  • Sharp pains or dull aches in your stomach
  • Aching
  • A feeling of heaviness

Period pain is normal, so don’t worry if you are experiencing any of these symptoms! However, if you are experiencing extreme period pains, they could be caused by an underlying condition. Dysmorrhoea can be categorised into two stages: primary dysmorrhoea and secondary dysmorrhoea.

Primary Dysmenorrhoea

Primary dysmenorrhoea is normal and experienced by most people who have periods. These period cramps should be milder and generally develop in the first few years of your period.

Period pains are caused by prostaglandins, chemicals that are naturally made in the lining of your uterus. Higher levels of prostaglandins trigger contractions in the muscles of your uterus, causing pain and cramps.

Secondary Dysmenorrhoea

More severe period pains are generally categorised as secondary dysmenorrhoea. This is where an underlying health condition causes period pains. Some common health conditions that cause more severe period pains include:

  • Endometriosis
  • Fibroids
  • Pelvic Inflammatory Disease
  • Adenomyosis
  • A side effect of a copper intrauterine device (IUD)

If not treated early, secondary dysmenorrhoea can become worse with age. With secondary dysmenorrhoea more common in people who have periods in their 30s and 40s, it is crucial you see your doctor if you have any severe period pain to start treatment early and manage your period pain.


The Best Painkillers for Period Pain

Painkillers are one option to help treat period pain. However, with so many painkillers on the market, it can be difficult to know which ones will be effective. Don’t fret! We have compiled a list of the most effective painkillers available to you so you can treat your period pains effectively.


Probably the most commonly used painkiller for period pains is ibuprofen, as it is available over the counter. A non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID), ibuprofen relieves pain and reduces inflammation, making it perfect for treating period pains.

We recommend you take ibuprofen either as soon as the pain starts or 48 hours before you expect your period to help mitigate any period pains. Remember, you should take ibuprofen with food!

Mefenamic Acid

Another NSAID, mefenamic acid, is known for treating mild to moderate pain. More commonly used to treat arthritis, menfenamic acid can also effectively treat primary dysmenorrhoea.

However, this painkiller is only available through prescription, so you should consult your doctor if you have more moderate period pains that ibuprofen is not treating effectively.


A strong painkiller, naproxen is a powerful NSAID that is used to treat more severe forms of primary dysmenorrhoea. Like other NSAIDs, naproxen works by stopping your body from producing prostaglandins that cause period pain.

You will need a prescription for naproxen as it is stronger than ibuprofen and can cause greater side effects, such as stomach ulcers, if you take it over a long period of time or in large doses.


Although NSAIDs are the best painkillers for treating period pain, paracetamol can also be used to treat mild period cramps. If you cannot take NSAIDs or want an alternative to ibuprofen, paracetamol is your best option! Just be aware that paracetamol will not be as effective in treating period pains as ibuprofen or NSAIDs.


Codeine for period pain is not advised as it is a highly addictive drug and has various side effects, so it is recommended you choose other alternatives for pain relief before using codeine.

Codeine is only available through a doctor’s prescription. There are options to purchase a combination of ibuprofen and codeine in a single medicine from pharmacies. Still, you should only take this when absolutely necessary or when other painkillers, such as paracetamol and ibuprofen, are not effectively treating your period pain.


Some people suggest co-codamol for period pain. Co-codamol is a combination of paracetamol and codeine used for short-term treatment of moderate pain, such as period pain. With the side effects and addictive nature of codeine, it is advised you don’t take this medicine for more than three days in a row unless your doctor has advised you to.

At Home Health, we recommend you choose NSAIDs like ibuprofen, mefenamic acid, and naproxen to treat your period pains, as these are the most effective options for treating primary dysmenorrhoea due to their anti-inflammatory properties.


Other Treatments for Period Pain

Painkillers are just one option to alleviate period pains. Other treatments that have been tried and tested include:

  • Hormone treatments e.g. combined oral contraceptive pill or intrauterine device (IUD)
  • Heat packs
  • Warm baths or showers
  • Gentle exercise such as yoga, walking or swimming
  • Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS)
  • Acupuncture
  • Relaxation and meditation
  • Supplements like magnesium, fish oil or vitamin B1


When You Should See a Doctor

If your period pain doesn’t go away after trying some of these treatments, you should see your doctor for advice. You should see your GP if:

  • Your period pain lasts longer than 2 days
  • The pain doesn’t go away after taking hormonal contraceptives or pain relief
  • The pain becomes debilitating or you cannot complete your daily activities
  • It hurts to have sex or during bowel movements
  • There is pain in your pelvic area when you are not on your period
  • You have pain from an IUD


Tackle Period Pain with Home Health

Whether you have mild or severe period pain, we are here to help. At Home Health, we have a range of painkillers that are effective in treating period pain. From ibuprofen to paracetamol and co-codamol, easily relieve your period pain with the help of Home Health.

For further information, take a look at our guides on Periods.


Period Pain FAQs

What’s the best painkiller for period cramps?

Period cramps can be effectively treated with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID) such as ibuprofen, mefenamic acid, and naproxen. It is best if you take NSAIDs as soon as the pain starts or 48 hours before you expect to start your period to mitigate the period pain.

Do paracetamol help period pains?

Paracetamol can be effective in treating mild period pains, but they are not as effective as alternatives such as ibuprofen. As ibuprofen is an NSAID, it can stop the production of prostaglandins, the chemical responsible for causing contractions of muscles in your uterus, resulting in period pains. This reduces inflammation, making it the preferred painkiller for tackling period pain.

Is ibuprofen or paracetamol better for period pain?

Ibuprofen is the best painkiller for treating period pain, making it the best option compared to paracetamol. With its anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties, it can effectively reduce period pain. However, paracetamol can be a good alternative for people who are unable to take NSAIDs, as it provides mild pain relief.


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