May 10th 2019
What happened when I swapped painkillers for period pain patches for my cramps
December 10th 2018 / 0 comment
They claim to provide natural, non-medical ways to soothe pain away, but do they deliver? One GTG writer put them to the test
When it comes to painkillers, I’ve cultivated a bit of a reputation as the office dealer. This is largely down to my history of migraines, but also because of my fear of getting period cramps at work.
I’d probably describe my usual level of pain as either a 5 and 6 on the menstrual Richter scale - being ibuprofen-less wouldn’t cause me to double over in pain, but I would definitely be in need of a hot water bottle, a chair and a hug. My trusty stash ensures that I don’t need any of these. Well, except a hug. You can always do with one of those.
It’s funny how readily I turn to painkillers though and if I were to rack up the number of pills I’ve taken over the months...well, I’d actually prefer not to do that maths if I’m being honest with you. They provide a quick and easy way to soothe away the pain and have therefore become my norm. As a result, I haven’t really considered the alternatives that might be out there.
So when I heard that period patches could provide a ‘natural’ non-medical option to popping pills three to four days a month, I was keen to give them a try. A relatively niche category, there isn’t a great deal available however, two potentials can be found on the shelves of Boots and Harrods Pharmacy at the moment - hot Cura-Heat Period Pain Patches, (£3.99 for three), and cooling BeYou Period Pain Relief Patches (£6.99 for 5).
To ensure that I wouldn’t get tempted to cheat, I made a promise to myself to leave the Nurofen at home. Here’s how I got on.
How they work
These adhesive patches automatically heat up when exposed to air. Designed to be stuck onto the outside of your pants or on the clothes covering the affected area, they activate within a minute, heat up within 5 minutes and reach peak heat at the half-hour mark. Heat is believed to help ease the pain felt as a result of increased muscle contractions that occur in the womb during your period.
What they’re like to use
First impressions? They looked a lot like sanitary towels. And they were quite wide. However, I usually reserve my biggest, most granny-like pants for this time of the month, so there was more than enough material for them to stick too (thank you M&S).
As promised, they started heating up in the first five minutes and reached a lovely toasty temperature within half an hour. It felt like I had a hot water bottle attached to me, but a much more discreet one. I kept one on for about six hours before it started cooling off and, with careful positioning of my jeans on top, they stayed put for the duration too.
Did they work?
Yes. I used them on day three of my period (one of my worst days) and I didn’t find myself reaching for the painkillers. Alone, they were enough to tackle my moderate cramps. For those who have particularly bad ones though, they could act as a welcome add-on to your pain relief artilleries and help reduce your painkiller intake too. They were really soothing, I’d gladly stick them all over my body.
How they work
These patches contain two active ingredients - 10 per cent menthol, believed to help block nerve impulses from pain receptors, and 5 per cent eucalyptus oil, believed to ease muscular tension due to its anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties. It also boosts blood circulation too. The other 85 per cent is adhesive plaster (a naturally derived medical-grade polymer blend).
What they’re like to use
They’re like massive plasters, which actually seems rather apt. Unlike the heat patches though, they can be stuck directly onto bare skin and you can feel them working straight away. The sensation is cooling and tingly, and feels a little odd at first but then becomes...refreshing? Invigorating? A bit like if you were to apply Vapour Rub to your mid-section.
The adhesive is really strong, which alleviates any fears that they’ll fall off while you’re walking around the office. They make you smell quite heavily of menthol though, so I wouldn’t bother spritzing on your most expensive perfume when you’re wearing one. It’s a battle it won’t win.
Did they work?
Yes. Again, I didn’t reach for the painkillers while wearing one of these on day two of my period, there was something quite distracting about the cooling sensation - I was so focussed on the tingles, that I didn’t really notice any pain. They did smell quite strong though which was a little off-putting and taking them off was, um, an experience. A bit like having a wax if done dry, so I’d recommend using a little warm water to loosen it up.
I was cynical at first, but I’d definitely use these again - especially the Cura-Heat Period Pain Patches. They were like portable hot water bottles, perfect for pain relief at work when you don’t necessarily want to shout that you’re on your period to everyone. They’re not the most eco-friendly solution (they can’t be recycled), but in terms of helping cut back your painkiller-intake, they deliver.