When menopause starts, changes occur in a woman’s body. Many women complain of menopause joint pain, some severe enough to prevent them from completing some of the activities they’ve been used to doing. These aches and pains can happen anywhere in the body but are often concentrated on the joints.
This article details what causes joint pain in menopause and what women can do to reduce it.
How to recognize menopause joint pain
As we age it’s normal to experience a certain amount of joint pain so it would be easy to miss the fact the menopause may be the cause.
Joint pain during menopause and menopause symptoms, in general, can mimic other types of conditions so it’s important to seek a diagnosis and treatment from a medical professional.
However, women in menopause have a unique type of joint pain that is characterized by tenderness in the joints and surrounding areas resulting from thinning of the bones and menopause weight gain.
Areas to look out for are:
-The hands and the knuckles of the fingers
– The small bones in the feet. Your chiropractor can also help with menopause hip pain
-joint pain can start showing up in perimenopuase
-menopuase shoulder pain and neck pain can also be an area of concern as tight muscles here can lead to a hunched posture.
Early detection may help prevent further complications with women in menopause including osteoporosis.
What is the cause of menopausal joint pain?
Joint pain can occur due to changes in hormonal levels, which can lead to thinning of the bones and less flexibility.
Many women complain that menopause makes their conditions worse because they are already experiencing other menopause symptoms such as hot flashes, memory loss, insomnia, and mood swings.
Joint pain can be related to menopause but there are many other reasons why you may be experiencing these symptoms, from injuries to arthritis.
Lower estrogen levels are often to blame for painful joints.
As estrogen is responsible for regulating hydration its lower levels can be the cause of dehydration so there is less lubrication for the joints and of course more pain.
As a double whammy estrogen helps with inflammation so its declining levels make joint pain more intense and on top of that menopause weight gain can bring even further strain.
Joints will often swell with menopause leading to further stress on your joints.
The menopausal process produces chemical changes that slow bone formation and result in less flexible bones that can cause pain.
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Some foods such as sugar, processed foods, caffeine, fizzy drinks, and dairy can all trigger inflammation in the joints and aggravate joint pain.
Foods that you are intolerant to can cause inflammation in any part of your body. Inflammation in your joints will cause pain.
It’s important to notice if foods in your diet might be causing inflammation. If you suspect that your body doesn’t play well with a particular food it’s important to eliminate it. Examples of common foods that can cause these inflammatory problems are: highly processed oils, oats, alcohol, and foods containing aspartame and trans fats.
Food intolerance can show up as a tummy ache, rash, swelling, and of course, joint pain. Anything out of the usual.
A personal story: recently one of my daughters has been having eggs on toast with avocado for breakfast. She started to feel a little ill each time she had them. She was already having gluten-free bread so we assumed it was the eggs and cut it down to just the avocado on toast. Then I noticed after having the avocado one morning her lips were swollen and sore. We cut out the avocado and she has been feeling much better.
My point? Sometimes it’s not the foods you think would be the problem. The answer lies in being vigilant and noticing changes.
Poor posture can lead to reduced joint health, especially in the neck and shoulders areas.
Electronic devices are often blamed for bad posture and that is true but it’s more often about sitting or standing with poor posture for a long time, which causes pain.
There are many ways you can combat this stuck-at-a-desk joint pain including regular breaks to stretch your joints, taking walks around the office, or using a standing desk.
Many menopausal women will find they put on weight around menopause and pain in their joints can often be a result.
Excess weight can add further pressure to muscles and muscles around the joints and so more pain.
Chronic stress can cause pain because it makes the muscles tense which puts strain on the joints.
If the stress is constant your body will release large amounts of cortisol which is inflammatory causing further pain in the joints.
As previously mentioned estrogen is responsible for regulating hydration.
Dehydration will worsen joint pain as there is less lubrication for the joints causing swelling and inflammation.
Be aware of how much caffeine you’re having as like alcohol it is a diuretic and will dehydrate you further.
How to treat menopause joint pain naturally
There are many natural lifestyle changes you can make at home to help ease joint pain.
Drink plenty of water, 2 liters a day is recommended.
Staying hydrated will help to lubricate your joints and keep them pliant.
Keep it a little more interesting if you want by making it sparkling or adding a slice of lemon and some mint.
Eat plenty of anti-inflammatory foods
A whole foods diet is good.
The standard Western way of eating can be inflammatory to the joints as it contains many foods that increase inflammation.
Inflammatory foods are anything processed, particularly oils and sugar, wheat products, dairy, eggs, peanuts, nightshade vegetables (peppers, tomatoes, aubergine, chili, potatoes), processed meat, MSG, and soya.
The menopause community is now seeing the benefits of eating whole foods for reducing menopausal joint pain naturally.
Eat to support your digestive system
A healthy digestive system is imperative for menopausal women as estrogen affects how well you digest food. Eat plenty of probiotics such as sauerkraut, greek yogurt, kefir, miso and kombucha. Also, include plenty of prebiotics which are fibrous vegetables and fruit such as kale, apples, artichokes, asparagus, berries, and cocoa.
Include plenty of these natural inflammation-fighting foods:
- Omega-3 like oily fish (salmon, mackerel), organic eggs, chia seeds, and flaxseeds
- antioxidants like beetroot, green tea, dark chocolate, and berries
- Vitamin C which is a natural anti-inflammatory like capsicum peppers, broccoli, kiwi fruit.
- Turmeric contains curcumin which helps to reduce joint pain too. Add it to your dishes or make a turmeric latte with cinnamon and ginger for a delicious warming drink.
- Other foods to include would be lots of extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, avocado, flaxseed oil.
Get plenty of sleep
Lack of sleep can make the experience of pain worse.
Aim for 7-8 hours of sleep per night as that will give your body time to rejuvenate.
Progesterone and cortisol are released during your sleep cycle to help ease joint pain and when you don’t get enough it can add further strain on your muscles and joints.
I know I go on about stress a bit but nothing can take away the fact that joint discomfort is greatly impacted by stress. Cortisol levels are raised as a result of tension, and cortisol may promote additional inflammation in joints. Make an effort to keep your level of stress as low as possible.
Learning relaxation techniques such as yoga, meditation and visualization will help to reduce pain and stress levels. Two birds with one stone, brilliant.
Try some gentle exercise like walking or yoga which will ease joints and pain without adding too much pressure.
Exercise is a great way to reduce joint pain and maintain good circulation.
Consider switching to low impact exercises that won’t hurt your joints like swimming, yoga, pilates walking, and cycling.
These types of gentle exercise will increase lymph drainage and keep your muscles pliant as well as keep your joints supported.
Extra movement is particularly important in helping to reduce weight for those women who have gained weight during their menopause years.
Weight-bearing exercises are important too not just for weight loss but to specifically strengthen your muscles that support the joints. As estrogen levels fall in menopause so does bone density decrease.
Using strength exercises can not only improve muscle mass but also bone strength.
Practicing yoga regularly is particularly good as it incorporates breath work with strength moves. While the breath work will help you to destress and relax the strength work will build muscle and bone.
Stretching and warming up before exercise is key as it will help prevent strains and damage to the joints.
It’s also essential to stretch often as we get older to help us gain more range of motion and flexibility. This lessens the chance of injuries or falls by keeping you more mobile.
If you are experiencing menopausal joint pain then consider these supplements:
- Omega-3 This will help with inflammation and can be found in fish oil or flaxseed oil.
- Calcium and magnesium These will help with menopause-related muscle and nerve pain.
- B vitamins including B6, B12, and Folic Acid can help to reduce inflammation. Add more whole grains, beans, and leafy greens to your diet for increased benefit. Other sources of Vitamin B: bananas, avocado, cauliflower, peas, and brussels sprouts.
- Vitamin D3 is important for menopausal women as it helps with bone health Also, consider getting a Vitamin D blood test – many women later in life are deficient in this vitamin which can lead to various health problems. The best way to get vitamin D is by spending 10 minutes in the sun every day (without sunscreen) as it’s your body’s way of producing vitamin D. If you’re not able to get enough sun then a supplement is the next best thing.
- Curcumin can be effective at reducing joint pain. This supplement is extracted from the root of the turmeric plant and has powerful anti-inflammatory properties. You can also try using turmeric in your cooking. It’s a great addition to stir-fries or curries.
- As with all supplements please check with your doctor before
Apply ice or heat to the painful area
When there’s obvious inflammation (swelling, redness), apply ice. It may also help with the discomfort of overexertion or simply provide numbness to your pain at any time. Heat loosens muscles, flexibility is improved, and circulation is increased.
Alternative methods for dealing with aches and pains
If diet changes and supplements aren’t enough then consider alternative options.
Acupuncture can help menopausal women with muscle pain, joint aches, back pain, cramps, and headaches. It’s a great non-invasive option that works well.
Massage or physiotherapy may also help joint pain if it’s more chronic.
These methods can give a great amount of relief and a much-needed break from niggling aches and pains.
TENS machines are also a safe method too. They stimulate the nerve endings to improve blood flow around the area, This, in turn, reduces menopause joint pain and inflammation.
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Know when to seek help
If pain in your joints is causing you problems in your day-to-day life then it’s time to see your doctor or menopause specialist.
Try not to brush it off as nothing as it could be a sign of more serious health issues. For example, when menopausal women are deficient in calcium and Vitamin D, they may be at risk of developing osteoporosis which also causes pain in the joints.
As other symptoms of menopause such as hot flashes and night sweats come to an end once you are through menopause joint pain may not. There are several natural things that women can do at home to alleviate joint discomfort. And many of those techniques would also be appropriate as part of our overall health maintenance at this time in life.
Make sure to consult with your doctor first to make sure you are both on the same page.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Menopause is a natural, biological process that typically occurs during a woman’s midlife years. During menopause, a woman’s menstrual periods gradually stop and the body produces less estrogen, which can lead to menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes and vaginal dryness. Many women experience menopausal joint pain after menopause due to a lack of estrogen.
Menopausal joint pain is most likely to occur in the lower body, such as the knees, ankles, wrists, fingers, and spine. However, your menopausal joint pain may affect any joint in the body.
Up to 75% of menopausal women will experience menopausal joint pain, according to the North American Menopause Society (NAMS).
Decreased amount of estrogen is a major cause of menopausal joint pain. During perimenopause and menopause, when your body gradually produces less estrogen due to the decline in the function of your ovaries, menopausal joint pain can occur.
Many menopausal women experience menopausal joint pain from osteoarthritis, a common joint problem that occurs when the protective cartilage on your joints wears away due to overuse or age. Osteoarthritis typically affects the weight-bearing joints in the body, such as the hips, knees, spine, and the small joints in the hands.
Both menopausal joint pain and arthritis are caused by changes in your hormone levels, but menopausal joint pain occurs during menopause when estrogen levels are low whereas arthritis is an inflammation of one or more joints that affects men and women of all ages.
The most common menopausal joint pain symptom is discomfort in your knees, hips, hands, or spine that may be mild or severe and may interfere with your daily activities. Women who experience menopausal joint pain may also have other menopause symptoms such as hot flashes, night sweats, vaginal dryness, fatigue, memory problems, or mood swings.
A doctor can diagnose menopausal joint pain by asking about your symptoms and medical history, performing a physical exam, and identifying menopause-related changes in your body. Your doctor may also recommend additional tests to identify menopausal joint pain or rule out other menopause symptoms.
How is menopausal joint pain treated?
Menopausal joint pain treatment typically involves self-care strategies, such as lifestyle changes that may include quitting smoking, improving diet, exercise, destressing, and losing weight. Other menopausal joint pain treatment options include prescription medications, hormonal therapy, menopause supplements, menopause creams, menopause devices, acupuncture, and surgery.
If you have severe joint pain or joint pain that does not respond to self-care menopausal joint pain treatment options, you should see a menopause specialist or doctor.