Ah, periods: the gift that keeps on giving. From heavy bleeding to intense cramping, what's not to love about those four to seven days every month that make you feel like you're a character from Alien vs. Predator, ready to chop someone's head off if they dare to come too close to you? It seems like the symptoms for menstruation are part of a never-ending list, and some of them seem to make way less sense than others. For example, why does my back hurt when I'm on my period?
I know it can often seem like a lot of the aches and pains you get when you're on your period are just straight-up not even associated with the period itself, but back pain — although we're all aware your back is nowhere near your uterus — is, in fact, a direct result of what's happening in your body while you menstruate.
Lower back pain during your period is caused by contractions in your uterus. And yes, you do have contractions during your period, as well as during childbirth. These ones are just much, much smaller, thank goodness.
The contractions you experience during menstruation are what cause that soreness and cramping in your lower back a few days every month.
Here's how it works: The contractions in your uterus travel through the nerves in your pelvic region. More specifically, when your uterine lining is shedding (via the contractions), nearby blood vessels are also contracting, thus limiting the amount of oxygen that reaches nearby muscles and causing ensuing cramping.
Put simply, your uterus emits a series of "squeezes" to shed its uterine lining, and this can trigger soreness in nearby areas of the body, like your lower back. It also explains why your abdomen and thighs can feel sore after a period, like you've just worked out.
However, your back pain should not be so severe that you're having trouble standing or sitting.
Nor should the pain feel like stabs or shooting sparks. At the very most, your back pain should be a mild, consistent type of soreness that you can recognize and attribute to menstruation. (This is why it's so important to get to know your cycle and how your body to reacts to it normally.)
If the pain is more severe, this could be a sign that you have endometriosis, a condition in which endometrial tissue (which is usually just found in your uterine lining) is growing in different places, like the outside of your uterus. This disorder is incredibly painful and debilitating, so you should see a doctor immediately if the back pain feels like it's interfering with your daily life.
But if you're just dealing with the standard back pain BS, don't stress too much over it. It is, unfortunately, a standard and expected side effect of being a woman.
That doesn't mean you should take the back pain lying down (#PunLife), though. There are plenty of easy hacks for finding relief from your back pain.
If you feel comfortable engaging in a little physical activity, getting the blood flowing is a great way to relieve a sore back, since it derives from a lack of oxygen flowing to the muscles. Going on a light jog could help your body loosen up and relax the muscles, too. Better yet, a hot yoga class (or a regular yoga class, because let's be real, sometimes the hot one is straight torture) will do wonders for the more tense parts of your body.
I know, it might be the last thing you want to do when you're in the throes of an especially insidious cycle, but odds are, you'll feel amazing once you finish.
If that doesn't convince you, throw a hot water pack on your back and settle in for a Netflix marathon. There's no need to be a hero.