The little blue pill that many men turn to for relief from their erectile dysfunction might also help to alleviate menstrual cramps. A new study conducted by Pennsylvania State University found that sildenafil citrate, which is sold under the brand name Viagra, might help to relieve primary dysmenorrhea (PD) when administered vaginally.

"If future studies confirm these findings, sildenafil may become a treatment option for patients with PD," said Richard Legro, professor of obstetrics and gynecology and public health sciences at Penn State College of Medicine.

The research team led by Legro recruited women 18 to 35 years old who suffered from moderate to severe PD. Twenty five of the women were randomized to receive either sildenafil or a placebo drug vaginally. For the next four consecutive hours patients rated their pain and those who took the sildenafil felt relief without any side effects.

“Viagra may help with pelvic pain because it can lead to dilation of the blood vessels. Previous research shows that taking it orally can alleviate pelvic pain, but the incidence of side effects — often headaches — may be too high for routine use,” according to a release by Penn State University.

The reason for these monthly pains is due to a hormone-like substance, called prostaglandins. They are involved in pain and inflammation, which trigger the uterine muscle contractions. Approximately 90 percent of women experience PD, or monthly cramping in their lower abdomen just before they begin menstruation.

Most women combat their pain with over the counter ibuprofen, heating pads, or other menstrual cramp home remedies. Higher levels of prostaglandins are associated with more severe menstrual cramps. For some women, their cramps might even interfere with their work, school, and daily activities. For the 10 percent of women who find no relief, other measures are taken such as prescribing pain killers or birth control pill.

More research is needed being that a small test group was used for the research. Legro and his team feel that this research is important enough to study in detail as it affects many women. "Since PD is a condition that most women suffer from and seek treatment for at some points in their lives, the quest for new medication is justified," said Legro.