Joint Pain and Menopause
Although it is a natural process, menopause can cause a variety of symptoms. Alongside the typical hot flashes and night sweats, many women also suffer from joint pain. Here you will learn about how joint pain and menopause are related.
How Menopause Can Cause Joint Pain
Lack of Estrogen
When women go through menopause, their estrogen levels fall. Estrogen has a variety of crucial functions within the body. It plays a role in managing inflammation and influences the perception of pain.
Estrogen also helps to control fluids within the body. This is highly relevant as cartilage (the tissue that lines the joints) is composed of 80% water. When a menopausal woman becomes dehydrated, this can contribute to joint pain.
Increased Body Weight
Another factor that may cause menopausal joint pain is increased body weight. Many women find that they gain weight following menopause and this puts additional strain on the joints. It can also lead to painful conditions such as osteoarthritis.
Osteoarthritis can also be the result of osteoporosis, a common problem for postmenopausal women. Osteoporosis means that the bones become brittle, raising the risk of fractures. Over time, this can also damage the joints.
Finally, women are more likely to develop chronic pain conditions around the same time as menopause. For example, fibromyalgia and rheumatoid arthritis are both conditions that most often occur in middle-aged women.
Which Joints Are Most Affected by Pain During Menopause?
The most common joints to be affected are the weight-bearing joints, like the hips and knees. However, any joints in the body can become painful during menopause:
Some women may experience pain in multiple joints, while others may get pain in just one or two.
Menopausal Joint Pain Symptoms
As well as joint pain, menopausal women may suffer from other, related symptoms:
- Reduced flexibility
- Loss of mobility
The exact symptoms of joint pain during menopause will vary depending on the underlying cause. For example, someone suffering from fibromyalgia will experience different symptoms from someone suffering from osteoarthritis.
Natural Treatment Options for Joint Pain During Menopause
Fortunately, there are many natural treatment options for menopausal joint pain, so it is good to find the most effective option for you.
Hot or Cold Packs
Many people find that applying heat or cold to their joints helps to alleviate pain. Generally speaking, heat is good for easing stiffness while cold can soothe sharp or burning pains.
Massage is a great way to improve the circulation and relieve joint pain. You can either pay for a professional massage or perform a self-massage at home. There are plenty of videos online to guide you through the process.
To enhance the experience, try adding a few drops of essential oil to 10 millilitres of carrier oil, such as almond, grapeseed, or coconut. Essential oils, like ginger and frankincense, are known for their anti-inflammatory properties, while lavender is good for numerous issues, including pain. Carry out a patch test first to ensure essential oils are safe for you.
Acupuncture is another natural therapy that can help with joint pain. It reduces inflammation, improves circulation and boosts endorphins, which are the body’s natural painkillers. As a bonus, acupuncture can help other menopause symptoms, like hot flashes and anxiety too.
It is important to ensure your body is getting all the vitamins and minerals it needs to keep the joints healthy. For example, magnesium deficiency is common after menopause and can contribute to joint pain. It is also essential to get plenty of calcium and vitamin D to combat osteoporosis.
How to Prevent Joint Pain During Menopause
In addition, there are a few things you can do to prevent joint pain during menopause.
Drink More Water
It is essential to stay well hydrated during menopause. Not only does lack of estrogen affect water balance, but additional fluids may be lost via sweating during hot flashes and night sweats.
Therefore, menopausal women may need to drink more water than younger women. However, it is advisable to keep tea, coffee, alcohol and sugary drinks to a minimum. These beverages can make joint pain symptoms worse. Plain water or unsweetened herbal teas are both good alternatives.
Maintain a Healthy Body Weight
After menopause, women have to work harder to stay in shape. However, it is essential to do so, as being overweight can contribute to joint pain. The best way to keep your body mass index within a healthy range is to consume fewer calories than you burn each day. This might mean eating less or increasing physical activity.
As well as keeping your body weight in check, regular exercise is a great way to keep the joints mobile and pain-free. The best options are low-impact or weight-bearing exercises that help to build muscle without straining the joints:
- Water aerobics
Don’t forget to stretch well before and after exercising to reduce the risk of worsening pain.
Eat an Anti-Inflammatory Diet
Diet is another important way to maintain a healthy body weight. Furthermore, eating certain foods can either aggravate or alleviate joint pain.
Avoid things like sugar, caffeine, alcohol and processed foods, and keep meat and dairy products to a minimum. All of these can cause low-grade inflammation and might make joint pain worse.
Beneficial foods include those that are rich in antioxidants, such as fresh fruit and vegetables. Oily fish are another good choice as they contain omega 3 fatty acids. You can also try including more anti-inflammatory spices such as turmeric and ginger in your diet.
Do Not Smoke
Smoking contributes to inflammation and this can make joint pain worse. It also aggravates symptoms, such as hot flashes, and leads to various other long-term health problems.
Stress releases the hormone cortisol, which causes inflammation. Try to keep your stress levels under control by practicing relaxation techniques or simply taking time out when you need to.
By doing the above, you can not only prevent joint pain, but also improve your overall health throughout menopause and beyond.