By Charlotte Hilton Anders
Bloating, moodiness, irritability, acne, chocolate cravings, the need to watch La La Land on repeat—you're likely very familiar with the usual symptoms of PMS. The closer you get to your monthly date with Aunt Flo, the worse you feel. Until, boom, you bleed, and then you feel better.
Premenstrual syndrome is as common as the other bane of womankind's existence, cellulite, which is to say over 90 percent of women say they have it, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
PMS is a combination of physical and emotional symptoms caused by the swift drop in progesterone and estrogen right after ovulation. When these female sex hormones are elevated, you feel calm, happy, and in control. When they drop, you often feel anything but. For the vast majority of women, PMS symptoms are relatively mild, but about 8 percent experience severe symptoms, a condition known as premenstrual dysphoria disorder, per the HHS. (If you have any of the symptoms of PMDD, talk to your doctor right away.)
What you may not know about PMS symptoms, though, is that they can go way beyond bloating and cramps, including weird symptoms that you'd never think would be tied to your period. Tracking your period symptoms—especially the strange ones—along with your cycle each month can help you figure out how to best deal.
What weird period symptoms should you look for? From sore muscles to complete closet reorganizations, we rounded up some of the strangest ones.
YOU'RE HALFWAY THROUGH YOUR NORMAL RUN AND ALREADY SUCKING WIND
Feel like you're out of breath faster than usual? Chalk it up to hormones. Where you are in your menstrual cycle can affect your breathing patterns, according to a study published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine. Researchers found that wheezing and shortness of breath can spike toward the end of your cycle, right before you get your period.
Good news: Breathing should feel easier than normal around the time that you ovulate, mid-cycle, per researchers.
YOUR NIPPLES ARE ALL TINGLY AND YOU HAVE TO WEAR A BRA 24/7
Increased breast tenderness and sensitivity—the kind that makes you stand in the shower backward and sleep in a bra to prevent accidental nip chafing—can stem from PMS, says ob-gyn Diana Ramos, M.D., co-chair of the National Preconception Health and Health Care Initiative. "The most common type of breast pain is cyclical, related to your periods, and is normal," she explains.
You should know that the most common medical remedies for PMS, like hormone creams or birth control pills, can also cause breast pain, she adds. Double-D whammy!
YOU SUDDENLY FEEL LIKE GIVING UP A BAD HABIT
Really? PMS can inspire you to quit a bad habit? It's true, says a study published in Biology of Sex Differences. Researchers found that female smokers were more successful in quitting if they started at the end of their menstrual cycles.
It's not as crazy as it sounds: Your hormones affect how you make decisions regarding rewards. During the first half of your cycle, you're more likely to give in to temptation, but during the second half of your cycle you're more likely to stay resolute, according to researchers. Best perk of PMS ever?
YOU JUST CAN'T SEEM TO RECOVER FROM LEG DAY
Have a bruise that just won't heal or extra sore muscles after a hard workout? If you're expecting your period in the next week, blame your PMS. Women recover from muscle damage more slowly during the week before their period, says a study published in the Journal of Head Trauma Rehabilitation.
However, they have good news for women on the birth control pill. The artificial hormones in the pill seem to protect against this effect, helping women recover at their usual rate regardless of the time of the month.
Watch a hot doctor explain why that stubborn bruise won't heal:
YOU'RE CRAVING A 12-OUNCE STEAK
Even if you're not normally a big meat eater, cravings for red meat can be one of Aunt Flo's signature calling cards. Why? Because red meat is rich in iron, the same iron that you lose through your menstrual blood, says a study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology. In the study, women who had the worst PMS symptoms also ate the least iron.
If you are prone to heavy periods, talk to your doctor to make sure your iron levels are in check, Ramos says.
YOU'RE OBSESSED WITH THE SCALE
Feeling bloated and fat isn't necessarily a surprising symptom of PMS, but for many women it goes way beyond having a "fat day." Research published in the International Journal of Eating Disorders concluded that PMS hormones can trigger weight obsessions and torpedo your self-image.
While simply knowing that this is possible can help you keep things in perspective when you're feeling down in the dumps, if poor body image is a big problem for you, talk to your doc or a psychologist, Ramos recommends.