Ah the joys of menopause.
The gift that keeps on giving. Of course, a handful of women go though it with hardly a headache or barely a bead of sweat…but there are thousands more who report a whole avalanche of symptoms.
Some of the best known complaints associated with menopause include hot flushes, night sweats, migraines, low libido, difficulty sleeping, low mood and anxiety. But how many women realise that the aches and pains that they’re suffering with are also a common consequence of their shifting hormone levels?
Although more often associated with ageing, those sore knees, painful hips and stiff fingers are all problems that can also be experienced in menopause. The hormone oestrogen protects joints – and when levels drop, as they do when periods cease, this not only increases inflammation, it also raises the risk of osteoporosis and osteoarthritis. With time, the cartilage at the end of the bones also starts to get worn whilst the hydration of the joints, ligaments and tendons is also affected, causing more pain.
All this can result in aching joints that are usually sore and stiff in the morning, but improve as the day progresses. Areas affected can be almost anywhere in the body – but are most often the knees, hips, elbows, wrists, fingers, shoulders, neck and jaw. Women describing their discomfort refer to it in many different ways – tender, achy, stiff, burning and even shooting pain are all reported. They often complain that that their knees literally creak when they move them!
Being a menopausal woman is a major risk factor for joint pain and, unless you visit your doctor and choose to take the HRT route, it’s nothing you can change. However, there are other contributing factors that could be well within your control.
Easy things to do
- Manage your weight – Even if it’s just a few pounds, this can make a big difference in relieving the excess strain on your joints – and increasing mobility.
- Stay active – You might be rolling your eyes as you read this because exercise always seems to be the solution to every ailment. But in this case it really is. Countless studies have shown that exercise is beneficial for the heart and the mind – but it’s also good for bone strength and for strengthening the muscles that support the joints. It also a useful way to help you control your weight. It’s helpful to include different types of exercise such as non-weight bearing ones like swimming and cycling and weight bearing pursuits like dancing, walking and running. Resistance and non-impact exercises like yoga and Pilates are also good as they improve core strength and flexibility – and are also renowned for reducing stress levels.
- Give your body the right nutrients – A healthy, balanced diet with natural whole foods and a good proportion of fruit and vegetables – including green, leafy veg – will help provide your body with the nutrients it needs to combat the side effects of menopause. Consider adding extra protein to your diet (lean meat, fish, eggs, beans, pulses), to help promote and maintain muscle mass – vital for bone support. You could also try foods that are naturally anti-inflammatory such as blueberries, fatty fish, dark chocolate (in moderation, I’ll point out!), turmeric, ginger and garlic. Make sure you’re also getting enough vitamin D and calcium in your diet and maybe consider a supplement. Some women also swear by supplements such as magnesium, glucosamine and turmeric. Others maintain that they have found relief by cutting out caffeine, fizzy drinks and foods high in sugar and salt.
- Keep hydrated – Drink water. It’s so simple yet is frequently overlooked. Night sweats and hot flushes can often cause you to become dehydrated, so keep those joints lubricated and replace fluids by drinking a glass of plain water little and often. Recommendations on how much to drink do vary but many experts agree that around 2 litres of water a day is about right.
- Get help if you need it – There are sometimes other causes of joint pain that can be more serious than menopause, so if you’re concerned that your joint pain may have another cause then it’s important to consult with your doctor.
Or if you just feel that you need a little extra help in returning to a happy, healthy, pain-free life then don’t hesitate in consulting one of our Osteopaths. They can give you a complete and intensive check to find out the root cause of your problem and then devise a way to help.