How painful your cramps are will depend on how much your body produces hormones known as prostaglandins to help the uterus contract and shed its lining. Many women experience the uterus contracting to create the menstrual flow as cramps. Your roommate is correct about exercise reducing painful menstrual cramps. Exercising raises the level of beta-endorphins, your body's own natural painkillers. Swimming is a good exercise to swim away your pain. You may try one of the over-the-counter drugs containing ibuprofen, a very effective prostaglandin inhibitor. Ibuprofen drugs are Advil, Midol IB, Motrin, Nuprin, etc. Other drugs that lower the production of prostaglandins and lessen its effect and don't require a prescription include Naproxen sodium (Aleve, Anaprox). The effect of drugs builds up over time. Timing is critical to fend off the pain of cramps so don't wait for the pain to begin to take a medication. If nothing helps and you continue having persistent, really excruciating cramps every month, I advise a consultation with a primary care doctor
who may prescribe a stronger medication that can effectively relieve cramps. The doctor can also check other problems such as an overgrown uterine-lining condition called endometriosis
, which often makes cramps hurt worse. Best of luck.