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What you can do

Do you feel a pinching sensation in your uterus or ovaries? You may have an ovarian cyst. Functional cysts can develop each month as a normal part of your menstrual cycle. These cysts are relatively common and usually aren’t cause for concern. That said, they may cause discomfort from time to time, and there are other types of cysts that may result from more serious medical issues.

The following treatments may help with your symptoms. Some methods may even reduce the size of your cysts or prevent recurrence, but more research is needed. While you may be able to treat your cysts at home, herbal remedies and other self-care measures aren’t a replacement for your doctor-prescribed treatment plan.

You may or may not know you have ovarian cysts. Many don’t cause any symptoms and may go away without treatment. However, large cysts might cause pelvic pain, fullness in your abdomen, or bloating.

You should contact your doctor immediately if you experience:

  • severe pelvic pain
  • sudden pain in your abdomen
  • pain accompanied by fever
  • pain accompanied by vomiting
  • signs of shock, such as clammy skin, rapid breathing, lightheadedness, or weakness

These symptoms are signs of a cyst rupture. Cyst rupture is more likely with large cysts.

In some cases, it may be a sign of ovarian torsion. Torsion happens as cysts get bigger. This can decrease the flow of blood to your ovaries through painful twisting.

Both cyst rupture and ovarian torsion can lead to serious complications, including extreme pain and internal bleeding. See a doctor immediately if you have any of the above symptoms.

Pain medications you can find at your local drug store may temporarily help with pain from ovarian cysts. You can buy many without prescription, including ibuprofen (Advil), naproxen (Aleve), and acetaminophen (Tylenol).

You may take these medications as soon as you feel discomfort for up to two or three days. Discuss taking painkillers long term or prescription drugs with your doctor.

A heating pad is another option that can help ease cyst pain and menstrual cramping. Applying a hot water bottle or heating pad to your lower abdomen may even be as effective as using OTC drugs. You can find electric heating pads online or at your local pharmacy or store.

You can even make your own by submerging a hand towel in water, placing it in a large plastic zip-close bag, and microwaving it for two minutes. Be sure to leave the bag open while in the microwave. After you carefully remove it from the microwave, seal the bag, wrap it in another damp towel and the heat should last a good 20 minutes.

The same idea applies with taking a hot bath. The heat can ease pain from cysts or cramps. Adding Epsom salts — magnesium sulfate — to your bath can take this relief to the next level. Epsom salts have been used for years to ease aching muscles and other pains.

You can find packages of Epsom salts at your pharmacy, discount dollar stores, and online. Simply draw a bath and add two cups of Epsom salts. Let it dissolve fully before soaking in the bath for about 20 minutes

Almonds boast high levels of magnesium, which may help with discomfort. Raw almonds contain around 270 milligrams per 100 gram serving. You’ll find this ingredient on many “what to eat during your period” lists for this reason. And in more formal studies, supplementing your diet with magnesium has been shown to help with chronic pain.

Most people can eat almonds with no interactions. They make a good snack to eat plain or taste great when sprinkled over salad. However, if you’re allergic to tree nuts, you’ll want to skip this suggestion.

You may have heard that the root dong quai can help with menstrual cramping and pain. This ancient Chinese medicine is often found in supplements or incorporated into teas.

However, studies are mixed on this herb’s effectiveness. Researchers in one study found the herb to be ineffective at combating hot flashes. More research is needed on this root, as well as other complementary and alternative therapies.

You shouldn’t take dong quai if you:

  • are pregnant
  • are breastfeeding
  • have a blood clotting disorder
  • take blood thinners

Supplements aren’t regulated by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA), so you should only purchase them from reputable manufacturers. Follow the dosage directions on the label.

Cozying up with a mug of warm chamomile tea is another option. Chamomile is an herb that’s been used since ancient times. It has anti-inflammatory properties to help with cramping and may help reduce anxiety to boot. Not only that, but chamomile may also allow you to get a better night’s rest. The best part? It’s something you can easily find at your local grocery store or online.

To steep store-bought tea, simply boil water and place your tea bag in a mug for a few minutes. Many teas will have instructions on the packaging.

You may also make fresh tea using chamomile flowers. For one serving, you’ll need:

  • 3-4 tablespoons of flowers
  • a sprig of mint
  • a cup of boiling water

Combine your ingredients in a mug and after five minutes, strain to enjoy.

Ginger tea is yet another herbal option for natural relief of pain and cramping. It also has both antioxidant and anticarcinogenic properties. In one study, ginger stopped the growth of ovarian cancer cells, leading researchers to conclude that dietary intake of ginger may treat and prevent ovarian cancer.

Like chamomile tea, you can find ginger teas on the shelves at a grocery store or online. All you have to do is steep a bag in boiling water for a few minutes and enjoy. If you don’t like the taste, consider adding a squeeze of lemon.

To make fresh ginger tea at home:

  1. Peel and slice a 2-inch piece of ginger.
  2. Boil ginger in 2 cups of water for 10 minutes.
  3. Then, remove from heat and add flavorings like lime juice and honey to taste.

There are some things you can try at home that may help long term with your ovarian cysts. These remedies may help reduce your cyst size or even prevent them from recurring. Still, there isn’t much research to support these methods.

Use caution, keep track of your symptoms, and keep your doctor in the loop.

What you eat may affect cyst development. For example, some women go on to develop polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). This condition causes issues like irregular periods or amenorrhea as a result of multiple cysts on the ovaries.

About 50 percent of women with PCOS are overweight or obese. There may be a link between insulin resistance, which makes it hard to lose weight, and PCOS.

As a result, you may want to avoid foods that contribute to insulin resistance. These include refined carbohydrates and highly processed foods, like:

  • white bread
  • white potatoes
  • anything made with white flours
  • pastries, desserts, muffins, and other sugary foods

Instead of filling up on processed carbs, try adding foods that help regulate weight and fight insulin resistance.

Healthy options include:

If you’re having trouble losing weight or managing your diet, ask your doctor for help or for a referral to a dietitian.

Certain plants and herbs may help ease a range of menstrual issues. Native Americans and European settlers used black cohosh to support general reproductive health. In modern times, it’s often used to help with symptoms associated with menopause, such as:

  • hot flashes
  • night sweats
  • heart palpitations
  • sleep issues
  • irritability

More research is needed to determine if this herb might help with ovarian cysts.

Black cohosh may cause side effects like stomach upset and rash. Beware, as there are some studies indicating black cohosh may contribute to liver damage. And other studies don’t support this plant’s supposed healing properties. Black cohosh may interact with medications, although research is limited. You should talk to your doctor before use.

Help may be in your pantry already. Flaxseeds may lower the body’s androgen levels. High levels of androgens in women are often associated with PCOS.

In one study, a 31-year-old woman with PCOS supplemented her diet with 30 grams of flaxseeds each day. Over four months, her androgen levels decreased, as well as her testosterone levels. These findings suggest that the seeds may help to regulate hormone function.

This study is quite limited, as it only examined one subject. More research is needed to determine if flaxseed may help with issues like ovarian cysts. At the same time, flaxseeds are rich in omega-3 fatty acids and can be part of a healthy diet. You may try sprinkling ground flaxseeds atop soup, incorporating them into smoothies, or even supplementing your diet with flaxseed oil.

Flaxseed is generally safe to consume daily. Before adding any supplement to your diet, it’s best to talk to your doctor.

Maca root is a plant grown in the Andes. It got some attention in the early 2000s for its potential to help women who are peri- or postmenopausal. It’s thought that this herb may help regulate hormone levels.

For example, women in one study generally felt they had a better quality of life after taking it. Their discomfort lessened, as well as symptoms like hot flashes, night sweats, heart palpitations, and feelings of depression.

Can maca root prevent or treat ovarian cysts? Maybe. More research is needed, but maca is generally considered safe to add to your diet. Many people add maca to smoothies or even coffee.

You can buy maca in capsule or powder form. Dosages vary, so be sure to read the instructions on the label.

Discuss with your doctor before adding herbs and other supplements to your daily routine. Some may interact with medications you’re taking or have side effects. Your doctor can also help you determine appropriate dosages and give you other instructions for use.

The FDA doesn’t regulate herbs, so you’ll need to do some homework to ensure you’re buying from reputable manufacturers. How do you know if the supplement you have is safe? You may not at first glance, so read the label. The FDA does require that labels contain all ingredients that are in the supplement.

If you still have concerns, ask your doctor or pharmacist for guidance.

Different at-home measures can help ease any discomfort you have or possibly regulate hormones to help in the long term. However, there’s no proven way to prevent future cysts from forming.

There are other causes of ovary pain and this sensation may be confused with mittelschmerz, the pain some women feel during ovulation. It happens once a month and is generally brief.

If you’re experiencing severe or otherwise concerning symptoms, see your doctor. They can diagnose any cysts or other issues that may be affecting your ovaries, as well as help develop a treatment plan suited to your needs.