Achy arms, neck pain, swollen knees…surely these are things that happen to people of advanced years not me! You might cry. But joint pain, associated with aging is now recognised as one of the side effects of menopause and all those hormonal fluctuations that you’re experiencing. The medical profession is, even now, not a hundred percent certain why this happens to menopausal women but if this is something you are experiencing, then you are definitely not on your own!
Do Joints Ache During Menopause?
Joint ache and joint pain is a known and common side effect of menopause. It can come at varying degrees. We will discuss joint pain during the menopause below, exploring why it happens and things you can do to help manage it.
Why you get joint pain during the menopause
As we get older we experience joint pain and joint ache for various reasons such as arthritis, however this is also a symptom of the menopause symptomised by aches, stiffness, and swelling around the joints, and sometimes a feeling of intense heat.
This is because, women approaching the menopause experience major hormonal fluctuations and it is believed that the decrease in the ‘lady hormone’ oestrogen, which protects joints and reduces inflammation, is to blame.
Menopause can also put women at risk from joint pain conditions such as osteoporosis and arthritis. Osteoporosis is where the bones lose density and can become brittle, while arthritis is the medical term for ‘inflammation,’ and can refer to many different types of joint conditions.
Osteoporosis puts women at risk of developing osteoarthritis, which is characterized by swollen and painful joints. So, while there may or may not be a direct physical link between menopause and joint pain, the two often go hand-in-hand.
Features of menopausal joint pain
There seems to be key factors to menopausal joint pain and join ache that distinguish it from other forms of joint pain. For example, if you feel your joints are stiff and achy when you get up in the morning but the pain eases off throughout the day, then this could be joint pain caused by the menopause.
You may feel this in areas such as the neck, jaw, shoulders, wrists and elbows; though other joints in the body may experience pain as well. You may even get shooting pains, or a burning sensation after working out.
How to ease joint pain
Once you’ve identified that your joint pain is associated with the menopause, it’s time to do something about it. There are a few ways you can manage your symptoms and make life a little easier, although if your pain is very severe, or you experience fever and weight loss then you should see a doctor to eliminate anything more serious.
This is one step everyone can do quite painlessly – although it will probably involve a few more trips to the loo! Drink plenty of water to keep tissues moist and supple. In menopause, our bodies lose water (or don’t retain it as well as they once did), so it’s important to replace the lost moisture as much as possible.
You’d think exercise was the cure for all ills the way it crops up time and time again as a solution to many menopause symptoms but while it isn’t the answer to everything, it really can help in so many ways – including a life free of joint pain. So many studies have shown that exercise is not only good for your heart and can increase muscle but it is also beneficial for bone strength and is one of the best mood boosters around. Low impact types of workout such as cycling, swimming, walking and yoga can have a very strong effect on the reduction of menopause joint pain.
This goes arm in arm with exercise as a two pronged approach to a better menopause. It’s simple, the better the nutrients you put into your body, the more fuel it has to deal with the unpleasant side effects of the menopause and that includes joint pain. For example, adding protein to your diet can help to promote and maintain muscle mass, which is vital for bone support.
Diets high in carbohydrates and sugars and low in omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to trigger chronic inflammation, so do things like substitute white bread, white rice, and flour with whole-grain foods such as wholemeal bread and pasta, oatmeal, brown rice, and quinoa. Eat Iots of seafood like fresh tuna, salmon, and mackerel (rich in omega-3) rather than red meat and munch on leafy greens like kale and spinach. Some foods, like blackberries, blueberries, and cherries, provide the body with natural anti-inflammatories, so can directly benefit you if you suffer menopause joint pain.
The stress hormone cortisol is associated with promoting inflammation of joints so you need to manage those cortisol levels through things like exercise and meditation.
If you smoke, it prevents the ability of bones to heal properly and that means joint pain could be more prevalent in women who have not yet quit the demon weed.
Studies show that acupuncture is helpful in treating the symptoms of menopause. Even a relatively short course can bring a significant change to the body and it is very effective in treating joint pain. Acupuncture treatment works by releasing pain-relieving endorphins. Endorphins are hormones that act as analgesics, meaning that they diminish the body’s perception of pain. Regular acupuncture treatment can ease joint pain and decrease the chances of recurrence.
Hyaluronic acid might help lubricate the joints, and ibuprofen can help relieve everyday aches and pains. There are also certain over the counter supplements that may help.
Hormone Replacement Therapy
HRT is one of the most common ways doctors may treat your menopause joint pain, as this will address the lack of oestrogen in the body, which as explained above is thought to be the hormone that projects our joints and prevents inflammation.
Does joint pain from menopause go away after menopause?
Joint pain is unlike many other symptoms of the menopause which will eventually go away when hormones level out, so this is why it is important to make those lifestyle changes in your diet and exercise right now.
Menopause Support Group
The menopause can be a challenging time for any woman. The Menopausal Godmother offers a community of likeminded women going through the menopause that can share their experience so no one has to go through it alone. Find out more to see if it’s something that could enhance your life.
Emma is a multi-entrepreneur. She founded The Menopausal Godmother and Acupuncture That Works. She specialises in acupuncture for menopause & fertility and has delivered acupuncture to over 1000 women going through the menopause.