For some, period pain is a discomfort they just put up with, and for others it’s debilitating pain that interrupts their lives. No matter which way your body swings, former Olympian and Medibank Live Better Ambassador Steph Prem, says pain management is all about listening to your body.
“We have to learn to be kinder to our bodies in that first phase of the cycle,” she explains. “We need to learn to work with our body and work with our cycle, and we need to be able to increase blood flow and increase those happy hormones (meaning serotonin). Luckily, we can do that through stretching and through light-to-moderate exercise.”
And when it comes to stretching, Steph, who is now a successful Pilates teacher and studio owner, says she uses Pilates to relieve period pain. “I’m someone who has suffered a lot of back pain in my life due to a sporting injury, but also due to severe period pain,” she explains. “Pilates-based stretching is great as it increases circulation and relaxes your nervous system, which helps ease any discomfort.”
And if you’re someone who likes to hit the gym hard, even during your time of the month, Steph says you might be doing more hard than good.
“Sometimes people think it’s good to ‘flush the system’ and get ‘rid’ of the stress by pushing their bodies too hard with intense exercise. But actually it can have the opposite effect and it can increase the pain or the bloating,” she explains.
Instead, she says, focus on stretches (her five favourite are below) as well as a heat pack, hot shower or a hot bath to ease not just the physical pain, but also to calm the nervous system, which helps you respond to the physical pain.
“You can also try breath work, hydration and also gentle walking to increase blood flow,” she adds. “Those are my absolute go-to options for when we’re struggling at that time of the month.”
Check out Steph’s five period-pain busting stretches below, and save this page for the next time you need a little self care.
1. Have a warm shower or bath to warm up the body and then try these five stretches.
2. Hold each stretch/pose for 10 long, mindful breaths (3-5 second inhale and 3-5 second exhale) or until you feel relief.
Hip flexor over foam roller
Start by lying down, facing upwards with the foam roller under your hips. Extend one leg out fully, keeping it off the floor. Bend the other leg and place your hands on your knee gently pulling it towards you. Then repeat on the other side. You can also use a rolled up towel if you don’t have a foam roller
Resting pose on floor with mindful breaths
Lie on a mat with your legs bent, your hips square to the ground and your arms straight by your side, palms out. Settle your breath and then mindfully breathe in an out.
Upper back extension over roller
Lie on the roller (or towel) by placing your upper back on the roller. The position you use can vary but around the shoulder blades or upper back is usually one of the best places. Bend your knees. Relax and feel the roller press into your back. Raise your hands you’re your head and feel the stretch.
Sit on the floor with your legs out in front of you. Straighten the spine by sitting tall and rolling the pelvis forward, leaning down to hold on to your feet (or shins). Hold this stretch for 30 seconds.
Child’s pose (on roller or on floor)
Sit on your heels and place the palms of your hands on the mat/ roller. Slowly slide/ roll your hands forward, lowering your chest towards the floor.
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