Self-treatment patterns among adolescent girls with dysmenorrhea

J Pediatr Adolesc Gynecol. 2006 Aug;19(4):285-9. doi: 10.1016/j.jpag.2006.05.004.


Study objective: To describe both non-pharmacologic and pharmacologic treatments used by adolescents with dysmenorrhea.

Design: Cross-sectional study.

Setting: Urban academic medical center.

Participants: Healthy adolescents aged 19 years or younger (n = 76) with moderate to severe primary dysmenorrhea were included; those using hormonal contraception were excluded.

Intervention: We collected baseline data via interview from adolescent girls at enrollment in a clinical trial of oral contraceptives versus placebo for primary dysmenorrhea. The interview data, collected prior to any intervention, included information on demographics, dysmenorrhea duration and severity, and self-treatment. We used the validated pain subscale of the Moos Menstrual Distress Questionnaire and a 0-10 pain rating scale to estimate pain severity.

Main outcome measure: Investigator-administered questionnaire.

Results: Adolescents' mean age was 16.8 years (SD = 2). Similar proportions described themselves as white (26%), black (30%) or Hispanic (28%). Dysmenorrhea was moderate in 42%, severe in 58%, associated with nausea in 55%, and vomiting in 24%. Of those attending school (n = 66), 46% reported missing one or more days monthly due to dysmenorrhea. Nearly all discussed their pain with someone; however, a minority sought formal medical care. All used nonpharmacological remedies such as sleeping and heat application. Nearly all used at least one medication, 31% reported using two, and 15% used three medications (not concurrently). Many participants reported using medication at sub-therapeutic doses for pain.

Conclusions: Adolescents with moderate and severe dysmenorrhea reported high morbidity. Girls used numerous non-pharmacologic remedies as well as medications for pain but infrequently accessed formal medical care. Medication dosing was often sub-therapeutic.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Absenteeism
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Analgesics / therapeutic use*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Dysmenorrhea / drug therapy
  • Dysmenorrhea / epidemiology
  • Dysmenorrhea / therapy*
  • Female
  • Hot Temperature / therapeutic use*
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Male
  • Morbidity
  • New York City / epidemiology
  • Pain Measurement
  • Pelvic Pain / drug therapy
  • Pelvic Pain / epidemiology
  • Pelvic Pain / etiology*
  • Pelvic Pain / therapy
  • Prevalence
  • Self Care / psychology
  • Self Care / statistics & numerical data*
  • Self Medication / psychology
  • Self Medication / statistics & numerical data
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Urban Population


  • Analgesics