It is very wrong to take painkillers and over-the-counter tablets just off the bat, that is, without proper consultation with a Gynaecologist. You see, the severity of pain may not be so high as to even require to take any medications. My mother used to simply prescribe a hot water bag. Now, by 'hot' does not mean extremely hot, boiling water! Keep in mind that it is the lower section of the abdomen where menstrual cramps occur. Also, do not place the hot water bag directly on the lower abdomen. It should always be wrapped in a towel which should not be too thick, though, as you need to feel the warmth.
Only if the pain is really bad to the extent that you cannot even move around, then, yes, tablets will be prescribed. Before these tablets are prescribed, the Gynaecologist will likely first tell you to do sonography, especially if there is really heavy bleeding. So when you consult the Gynaecologist, you need to say if you are experiencing heavy bleeding. The sonography will be advised to check uterine fibroids as the growth of these may be the cause of the heavy bleeding. A Gynaecologist should be consulted especially if you have repeated severe pain and heavy bleeding over a span of months.
Other than doing the sonography and prescribing an iron tablet, my Gynaecologist had also advised some simple things related to food (note that I am a vegetarian so accordingly the food was prescribed). First, eat leafy vegetables like spinach that are rich in iron because the iron level tends to get low during periods and even more so when it is a heavy menstrual flow. Secondly, eat a handful of mixed nuts, namely, cashew nuts, pistachios, walnuts, and almonds, as they are rich in vitamins. Thirdly, absolutely avoid deep-fried foods and things that are loaded with maida and sugar. Keep in mind that you should adhere to this at least 4-5 days before the period is due.
Another thing that you can do is to literally write down what you eat on the days prior to the first day of the period. If the cramps are severe, then you can know from the Gynaec if any of those foods are the culprit! I followed my Gynaec's dietary advice and that really helped to reduce the pain. However, remember that some people are allergic to certain kinds of food, such as nuts. That is why I reiterate that it is important to consult a Gynaec and tell about your own health history, especially if you are sensitive to certain kinds of food. Based on that and the symptoms that you experience, the correct medical diagnosis and treatment will be given.
Last, but not the least, menstrual pain is neither something to be afraid of nor something that should stop girls from going about their usual daily activities. Keeping calm and reducing stress is highly beneficial too!
A footnote: Since I always get an upset stomach with leafy vegetables, my Endocrinologist had advised me to have it with root vegetables. This advice came to me unfortunately only a few years back, but better late than never, and since that time, I have been eating leafy vegetables with potatoes, carrots, turnips, etc.
When you make a commitment, you create hope. When you keep a commitment you create trust! ~ John C. Maxwell