Photo: Instagram / @nannocare
We can all agree that period cramps are the worst. While it's certainly okay to pop over-the-counter pain relievers when you really need them, overuse does come with some associated health risks, like ulcers and kidney issues. Because of this, many women seek natural solutions to menstrual pain to avoid needing to take meds on the reg.
Though there are lots of med-free options out there (from yoga poses to vibrating devices), many of us simply reach for the Advil bottle when we feel that dull, achy, throbby, that-time-of-the-month feeling come on. Because let's be real: it works way better than anything else.
But a new menstrual pad company called Nannocare is hoping to change that. They've created something called the NannoPad, which uses a special type of fiber to help relieve menstrual pain. How does it work? According to the brand's website, "this technology has the amazing ability to naturally and safely release the needed amount of energy that helps microcirculation, resulting in a decrease of menstrual discomfort without the use of drugs or medication." So, not super clear how they work, but they sound pretty good.
On top of that, the pads are also organic. While there's not much evidence that organic pads and tampons are better than non-organic ones, many women would rather be safe than sorry, which is fair enough.
So how do they work? According to the site, all you have to do to reduce your menstrual pain is wear the pads during your period. It's also recommended to wear the brand's panty liners starting six days before your period to "start the process of microcirculation," which is supposed to help prevent menstrual cramps before they start.
Yes, really. These pads were created to alleviate cramps, and all you have to do is *wear* them.
If this all sounds too good to be true, well, it might be.
According to a white paper posted on Nannocare's website, the pads use something called far infrared radiation (FIR) to help reduce pain. The way it works is similar to an infrared sauna, a treatment some swear by for pain relief but that lacks hard scientific evidence of efficacy. The white paper mentions that NannoPads have been studied in a single-blind trial with 52 women by a third party company and found effective, but it doesn't link to or cite the published findings of the study.
As the people who most commonly deal with and treat complaints about menstrual pain, we figured we'd ask some ob-gyns what they think about this technology and its promise for treating cramps.
"The claims about these pads don't have any scientific basis," says Lauren Streicher, M.D., associate clinical professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine. And though the white paper featured on Nannocare's site was written by a credible source, what the general public doesn't usually realize is that white papers aren't peer-reviewed like studies are. That means no one has to check to make sure what's in the white paper is actually true—or that the studies referenced are legit.
"As medical professionals, we require peer-reviewed data supporting these claims in order to justify or condone change of menstrual protection," says ob-gyn Nicole Williams, M.D. But what really gives her pause is the fact that the brand suggests wearing their products even when you don't have your period. "It seems that they just want to increase their sales, as if monthly purchases aren't enough," says Dr. Williams.
And while there is some science that suggests FIR might help with pain, there's not any strong evidence that it does. To be fair, there are some external pain treatments that do work. "As an example, we know that if someone applies heat or a heating pad to their lower abdomen, it will reduce cramps," says Dr. Streicher. "That's external. The heat gets absorbed internally." So it is possible that something you wear on the outside would help soothe what's going on inside. But the more important question, says Dr. Streicher, is: Where's the proof that this product makes internal changes? That, we're still waiting for.
So what should you do if your cramps are out of control? "If conservative measures for dealing with period pains (i.e., diet, exercise, NSAIDS) are not helping, I would recommend seeing your doctor to get to the root cause of your pain," says ob-gyn Angela Jones, M.D. "It could be something more significant such as endometriosis, fibroids, or adenomyosis. I'd love to see how a pad could help with these things."
The bottom line? Maybe these pads do help relieve menstrual cramps in some way, but science has yet to prove it. They're certainly safe to try, but if you're on a limited budget, it's probably better to check in with your physician about the best ways to naturally manage menstrual pain.