For many women, it can seem as though Mother Nature is quite vindictive. In addition to dealing with monthly periods, a significant number of women also have to deal with painful menstrual cramps. It’s not uncommon to reach for a bottle of over the counter pain relievers when the pain starts. Others may be prescribed birth control pills to help. While they may provide some relief, these solutions are not always the best. Whether you want to avoid medication (and the potential side effects) or these methods don’t work for you, that doesn’t mean you’re stuck dealing with the pain. Here are seven natural remedies for dealing with menstrual cramp pain.

Use Heat Packs

Heat is a common solution for alleviating menstrual cramps. The warmth from a heat pack can help to relax the muscles in your uterus while also improving blood flow. Studies have shown that heat packs can be just as effective as ibuprofen.

Another great way to relax your contracting uterine muscles is to soak in a nice warm bath. This can do more than alleviate menstrual cramping. It can also help to relax other muscles in your body, leaving you completely relaxed.

Pay Attention to What you Eat

During your menstrual cycle, you may be craving salty, fatty, or sweet foods. These types of foods can exacerbate the pain from menstrual cramps. Instead, it’s important to incorporate healthy foods into your diet. Foods with anti-inflammatory properties, like blueberries, squash, and tomatoes as well as those rich in omega-3 fatty acids can help to ease discomfort. Calcium-rich foods like dark, leafy greens and beans can also help fight inflammation.

Take Herbal Supplements

There are a few types of herbs that are believed to help alleviate the pain associated with menstrual cramps. Ginger can help to lower the levels of prostaglandins in your body, which can then help to relieve pain. Fennel contains anethole, which has anti-spasm properties. Other herbs include black cohosh, turmeric, pycnogenol, chamomile, dandelion, and red raspberry. Herbs can be taken as a supplement (in the form of an oral pill) or made into a warm, soothing tea.

Get Up and Move

Exercise might be the last thing you want to do when you’re suffering from menstrual cramps, but it getting active has some significant benefits. You certainly don’t have to go out for a run or pump iron at the gym. Instead, try gentle exercising. When you exercise, your body releases endorphins, which can provide pain relief. Light stretching and yoga can also help. You can ask you yoga instruction which positions are best for relieving cramp pain.

Try Some "Between the Sheets" Action

Believe it or not, sex (or masturbation) is another activity that can help to alleviate discomfort naturally. Like exercise, an orgasm releases endorphins and other hormones that make you feel good and also alleviate pain. Just be aware that if you’re on your period (or don’t know that you’re bleeding yet), you may stain your bedsheets. Fortunately, you can easily look up how to remove blood from sheets naturally.

Smell Something Pleasant

A massage with diluted essential oils smells great. It can also help to alleviate pain. Certain scents have been linked to easing menstrual cramps. Try massaging your lower abdomen with clary sage, lavender, or marjoram essential oil diluted in a carrier oil.

Schedule an Acupuncture Session

Acupuncture involves the strategic placement of needles under your skin. The needles stimulate trigger points in the body to produce the desired effects. In this case, the desired effect is menstrual pain relief. You can also ask the acupuncturist to show you where the necessary trigger points are and how you can activate them at home through touch. This is a practice known as acupressure. Both of these natural solutions can be quite effective when done correctly.

Dealing with menstrual cramps can be a literal pain. Fortunately, you don’t have to rely on over the counter pain relievers or other prescription medications to alleviate your discomfort. There are plenty of natural remedies that can provide relief and allow you to live your life normally.