A Complete Breakdown of Pain Medications: What to Choose

A Complete Breakdown of Pain Medications: What to Choose

Menstrual pain, medically known as dysmenorrhea, affects many people who menstruate, causing discomfort or severe pain that can hinder daily life. Various medications have been developed to combat this pain, ranging from over-the-counter drugs to prescribed treatments. In this article, we'll explore some of the common remedies, offering an in-depth understanding to help you make an informed choice.

Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs 

NSAIDs are the most commonly used medications for menstrual pain relief. They inhibit the production of prostaglandins, compounds that contribute to inflammation and pain. 

Ibuprofen, think Advil and Motrin, are NSAIDs that are available over-the-counter and work by reducing the production of hormones that cause inflammation and pain in the body. It can be taken every 4-6 hours.

They come with potential side effects, especially when used inappropriately. And we know from experience - two members in our team, Lanna and Mel experienced a wave of difficult side effects aftering being prescribed, Lanna for period pain and Mel from a skydiving accident.  In fact, Lanna had a transient ischemic attack (TIA), when blood flow to part of her brain was blocked or reduced.

  • Stomach Irritation: NSAIDs are known to irritate the stomach lining, which can lead to feelings of discomfort or nausea. The stomach's natural mucus barrier can be compromised, making it more susceptible to the acidic environment. Over time, this can lead to more severe complications.
  • Ulcers: With prolonged use or at high dosages, NSAIDs can cause the development of ulcers or sores in the stomach or the first part of the small intestine, called the duodenum. Ulcers can be painful and may bleed. 
  • Heartburn
  •  Increased Risk of Heart Problems: Several studies have suggested that prolonged NSAID use might be linked with a higher risk of heart problems, including heart attacks or strokes. 


Hormones are powerful messengers in the body, directing a wide array of processes from metabolism to mood. Notably, they play an indispensable role in the female reproductive system, orchestrating the menstrual cycle's ebb and flow. For many women, managing hormonal fluctuations can be the key to alleviating the distressing pain of menstruation.

  • Birth Control Pills: Contraceptive pills are designed to prevent pregnancy, but they also can regulate menstrual cycles and reduce pain, through the regulation of the cycle. By preventing ovulation and thickening of the uterine lining, birth control pills can result in lighter periods, which can mean less painful periods. Birth control pills stabilize the hormonal fluctuations that can lead to severe cramps, too. 
  • Hormonal IUDs: While birth control pills are a systemic approach to hormone regulation, Hormonal Intrauterine Devices (IUDs) offer a localized solution by releasing progestin directly into the uterus, where it has a potent effect with a relatively small dose. This localized approach reduces the chance of systemic side effects. Additionally, it thins the uterine lining, which can reduce or even eliminate menstrual bleeding, and in turn, alleviate menstrual cramps.

While hormonal interventions offer many benefits, they are not without potential side effects:

  • Mood Fluctuations
  • Nausea
  • Breast Tenderness
  • Other Side Effects: These may include weight gain, changes in libido, headaches, and spotting between periods.


Opioids, a class of drugs, are sometimes considered in the realm of menstrual pain management when standard treatments fall short. But with their efficacy comes a slew of potential complications. 

  • Codeine: Derived from the opium poppy, codeine is among the weaker opioids but remains a powerful pain reliever. It works by binding to specific receptors in the brain and spinal cord, inhibiting pain signals' transmission and altering the perception of pain.
  • Tramadol: unlike codeine, isn't derived directly from the opium poppy but is still classified as an opioid due to its mechanism of action. Tramadol not only acts on opioid receptors but also inhibits the reuptake of neurotransmitters like serotonin and norepinephrine, enhancing its pain-relieving effects. Generally, tramadol is stronger than codeine but weaker than other opioids like morphine or oxycodone. This places it in a unique position for moderate to severe pain management.

Opioids are pretty notorious for their side effect profile, which can range from mildly inconvenient to life-threatening:

  • Constipation: Opioids slow down the gut's motility, leading to constipation.
  • Dizziness
  • Addiction: Regular opioid use can lead to physical dependence, characterized by withdrawal symptoms upon discontinuation. 
  • Respiratory Depression: Perhaps the most concerning side effect, opioids can slow or stop breathing. 
  • Mental Fog: Some users describe cognitive cloudiness or reduced sharpness when on opioids.
  • Nausea and Vomiting

Opioids should be a last-resort option for menstrual pain due to their potential side effects and addiction risk. Their use demands a careful risk-benefit analysis by medical professionals. When prescribed, patients must adhere to dosage recommendations. 

There Is More Out There! 

While menstruators have often faced skepticism regarding their experiences, their desire for diverse pain relief options extends beyond the traditional three mentioned earlier. This inspired the creation of OVY, our scientifically-validated suppository enriched with CBD & CBG. Embracing a holistic approach that caters to the mind, body, and spirit, we aim to revolutionize the perception and management of menstrual cycles. Rest assured, our solutions are not only safe and efficient but also firmly rooted in scientific evidence!

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