What’s the Difference Between Severe Menstrual Pain and Endometriosis?

Dec 11, 2018 7:48:54 AM / by Metro OBGYN Team posted in Health Services, Women's Issues

Painful periods are something that women may experience during their menstrual cycle. Unfortunately, the pain may affect daily activities and become a burden. Do you ever wonder if your symptoms are normal? Knowing whether or not you’re suffering from a painful period or a chronic condition like endometriosis is crucial to your pelvic health. In this blog, we’ll walk through the difference between painful periods and endometriosis.


My Periods are Painful – Is that Normal?

Pain experienced during a woman’s menstrual cycle is typical. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists state that “more than one-half of women who menstruate have some pain [usually] for 1–2 days each month.” That’s 50% of women who deal with pain during their menstrual cycle. Below, we list symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS).

Symptoms of periods include:

  • Nausea
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Cramping
  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Moodiness
  • Minimal pain

Extreme pain lasting more than two days is not normal for a menstrual cycle. If you’re experiencing severe pain during the time of your monthly period, and over-the-counter pain medication does not remedy the situation, contact your provider as you may be suffering from a pelvic health disorder such as endometriosis.

So, What is the Difference Between Painful Periods and a Pelvic Disorder?

There are two types of levels for pain associated with menstrual cycles. The first (or primary) comes with cramping – the contractions that occur when the uterus sheds the inner lining. These contractions usually cause some discomfort and pain. Usually, minimal pain can be cured with Ibuprofen or other over-the-counter painkillers.

The secondary pain level is a reflection of a disorder such as endometriosis, adenomyosis (tissue growing on the muscular wall of the uterus), or fibroids (growths on the uterus). Pain associated with the secondary level often last much longer than the primary, as it may get worse throughout the cycle, or the pain may be constant and never go away.

Is My Excruciating Period Pain from Endometriosis?

Endometriosis is a disorder in which the inner lining of the uterus (endometrium) grows on the outside of the uterus, fallopian tubes, ovaries, and in some rare cases other pelvic organs. It’s a chronic problem that causes discomfort and debilitating pain. Roughly 6 million women are affected by endometriosis in the United States. Symptoms for endometriosis are different than just a painful period or what someone might experience during PMS.

Symptoms of endometriosis include:

  1. Excruciating periods
  2. Pelvic pain which is not relieved by painkillers
  3. Lower backache
  4. Aching around the pelvis
  5. Pain during and after intercourse
  6. Pain during voiding of urine or bowels
  7. Blood in stool or urine

Pain from endometriosis is mainly associated with four things:

  1. A response to changes in hormones
  2. Bleeding outside the uterus
  3. Buildup of scar tissue
  4. Adhesions where pelvic organs stick together

Many women also describe endometriosis pain differently than they do with just painful periods. Some common words or phrases women may say to their providers include extreme or severe pain, feeling a shooting, sharp, or stabbing sensation in their pelvic region, and experiencing a constant throbbing or dull ache that won’t go away.

How Do You Know if Your Pain is from PMS or Much Worse?

Figuring out whether it’s a painful period or something much more complex is essential. It’s suggested to keep a notebook (record symptoms, dates, times, etc.) when pain is occurring. Once you’ve been collecting data on your pain levels throughout the month, think about these questions. 

  1. Is the pain I’m experiencing affecting my daily activities?
  2. Do I feel pain in other locations of my body?
  3. Do I feel pain throughout the month?
  4. Do I find intercourse to be painful (both during and after)?
  5. Does using the toilet cause pain?

If you answered "yes" to any of these questions, it’s time to meet with your provider. Diagnosing endometriosis is often tricky due to having very similar symptoms to other pelvic disorders. Plus, diagnosing may include a physical exam, testing, an ultrasound, and, potentially, a minor invasive surgery called a laparoscopy.

Experiencing Period Pain: Visit Metro OBGYN

Painful periods are not normal. If you’re experiencing any of the symptoms above, it’s best to consult your provider. When pain becomes too much and inhibits you from enjoying a full life, give Metro OBGYN a call and schedule an appointment today.

Get to know more about endometriosis when you download our FREE helpful guide below!

Pain in your Pelvic Area is NOT Normal. This free resource walks you through personal journeys of endometriosis and prepares you with the information you need in order to take action to address pelvic pain with your doctor. Download the eBook!

Metro OBGYN Team

Written by Metro OBGYN Team

Metro OBGYN is an independently owned practice that provides compassionate, convenient care across the spectrum of women's health services.


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