Hot water bottles for period pain? How do they work?
Period cramps are sadly a pretty common symptom of periods. We all have different experiences of period pain and use different ways to cope with them/ before we start I want to stress that if your period pains make your daily life unbearable (e.g. if you are not able to go about your normal activities) you should speak to a healthcare professional. You have the right to a pain-free life and so deserve to advocate for your own healthcare. Read our blog on communicating with your healthcare professional.
I have always had period cramps, usually on my lower abdomen and back. Some days are worse than others. When I get period cramps my go-to treatment usually focuses on eating some yummy food (chocolate is a favourite), taking some painkillers, having a hot bath or relaxing with a hot water bottle.
Recently, I got asked about heat as a treatment for period cramps and realised I didn’t really know why heat helps. Like many of us, my ways of dealing with period pain have been passed down to me from my mum or shared by my friends. So I decided to have a little research and collected my thoughts into this blog so you can get the answers you want.
So let’s dive in.
Do hot water bottles help period pain?
Hot water bottles were invented in the 1880s. Since then they have been a common way for keeping cosy when ill or in pain. The reality is, that research into the impact heat has on period cramps remain undecisive.
Using heat (or heat therapy) uses heat to tackle muscular pain. This can include hot water bottles, hot baths, hot showers and heat patches or hot towels. Heat as a painkiller works because of its ability to bring blood to the area. Although certain studies have found that pain does relieve period pain, some specific research focused on period pain failed to conclude if it was exercise or the feeling of heat which actually made the difference. Furthermore, there is some discourse about how long to use heat therapy, with some arguing that prolonger use of heat can have can have the opposite effect to the desired one.
However, heat therapy does work for many- including me. Clearly different treatments for periods work in different ways on different individuals. Heat therapy also has a psychological impact. Using a hot water bottle can also make us feel comforted and safe, potentially relieving some of the pain tensions.
Periods and period pains are unique to the individual. We all use different methods for coping with period pain. Research into periods generally and treatments for period pain remains limited although it is increasing.