Premenstrual Syndrome

How Can I Treat Specific Symptoms of PMS?

Many women address their PMS by treating the symptoms that arise. Specific symptoms that are often addressed this way include:


Headaches are a common symptom of PMS. Increased tension premenstrually may cause tension headaches. There is also a higher incidence of migraine headaches premenstrually. Specific treatments are available for each of these types of headaches. They includeacetaminophen (such as Tylenol) and aspirin for milder headaches. More serious headaches may require stronger pain medicine or medicines used to decrease the frequency of headache attacks. These require a prescription.


Menstrual cramps are disabling to some women. Dysmenorrhea (painful menstrual cramps) is a different condition than PMS but may occur at the same time. The most effective treatment is to beginnonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, before getting your period. Birth control pills are also likely to help with cramps.

Mood Changes

Mood changes, including irritability, depression, and fatigue, may best be relieved by the simple treatment of increasing your physical activity. Scientific studies have shown moderate physical activity to be as effective as medications in improving mental outlook. If physical activity alone does not help enough, talk to your doctor about other treatments.


Appetite tends to decrease with vigorous exercise. Finding small ways to indulge without going overboard, and developing non-food ways of comforting yourself, for example taking a warm bath or nap may help. Treatment with SSRIs may also help.

Bloating, Breast Tenderness, And Weight Gain

Being physically active may help to minimize discomfort related to fluid gain.

If your symptoms are very uncomfortable, talk to your doctor about taking a diuretic (medicine that gets rid of extra water in the body).Spironolactone is the prescription diuretic most commonly used for PMS-related bloating.

How-To Information:

Where should I start?

  • Record your symptoms on a PMS symptoms calendar for two to three months in a row.
  • Learn all you can about PMS.
  • Make an appointment with your doctor to discuss your calendar results and see what treatments may be helpful for you. If your doctor does not take PMS seriously, get a second opinion.
  • If your case is severe, you may need to see a doctor with specialized training in PMS. This may be a reproductive endocrinologist or a psychiatrist.

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