If You Experience Period Cramps In Your Thighs, This Could Be Why

Ask just about anyone with a menstrual cycle and they can give you a laundry list of monthly symptoms that make periods extremely uncomfortable. And while chocolate undoubtedly has its uses during a period, it doesn't come close to ticking off everything on that very long list.

Most people are aware of the common period symptoms such as food cravings, fatigue, headaches, bloating, breast soreness, mood swings, irritability, and — of course — cramps, according to the National Institute of Health. Unfortunately cramps have a tendency to turn up in many places throughout our bodies during this time of the month. Cramp locations, like the lower back, are common enough that most people shrug them off. And, usually, this sort of pain isn't a problem. It's called "referred pain," according to Dr. Houman Danesh, director of integrative pain management of Mt. Sinai Hospital (per HuffPost).

But when menstrual cramps occur in unexpected places, like the thighs, people start asking a few more questions. Here are some possible explanations for why this happens.

Uterine contractions kick off most cramps

In an interview with HuffPost, Dr. Danesh explained that abdominal menstrual cramps are caused by contractions in the uterus as it works to shed its lining. These contractions then affect blood vessels and nerves shares with nearby muscles and cause cramping in the thighs and lower back.

In some cases, however, thigh pain during a period may have other causes. WebMD states that endometriosis causes growths and cysts that apply a uniquely painful pressure to nerves and blood vessels. This pain can then spread into the back and thighs as referred pain. Endometriosis leg pain can peak during a woman's menstrual cycle and may stop once it's over. 

Another condition known as dysmenorrhea is rooted in a chemical imbalance that then causes abnormally painful uterine contractions that apply additional pressure to nerves. This can cause intense pain and cramps, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine. In fact, a common symptom of dysmenorrhea is pain that radiates down the legs.

Regardless of the cause, there is, thankfully, some relief available. Heat therapy, like warm showers or heating pads, can help alleviate muscle tension and physical cramping, while hormone treatment and over-the-counter pain relievers can reduce hormone imbalances and pain levels, respectively (via Johns Hopkins Medicine).