Study finds pain from menstrual cramps alters women’s brains

Health Day (via USA Today) reports:

Menstrual cramps are often dismissed as a mere nuisance, but new research suggests the monthly misery may be altering women’s brains.

Researchers in Taiwan used a type of brain scan known as optimized voxel-based morphometry to analyze the anatomy of the brains of 32 young women who reported experiencing moderate to severe menstrual cramps on a regular basis for several years, and 32 young women who did not experience much menstrual pain.

Even when they weren’t experiencing pain, women who had reported having bad cramps had abnormalities in their gray matter (a type of brain tissue), said study author Dr. Jen-Chuen Hsieh…

Those differences included abnormal decreases in volume in regions of the brain believed to be involved in pain processing, higher-level sensory processing and emotional regulation, as well as increases in regions involved in pain modulation and regulation of endocrine function.

Exactly how the changes in the brain could affect women’s experience of pain is unknown, researchers said.

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