Why does it always seem like men have it so easy? They don't periods, birth children, can pee standing, and oh yeah, don't have to go through menopause. With menopause come some other unforeseen and not talked about aspects such as pain.
So let's talk about menopause and joint pain.
Menopause is a normal part of aging for all women. Natural perimenopause begins as early as 40 years old and is marked by a decrease in estrogen. This decrease in estrogen causes the common symptoms of hot flashes, irregular periods, mood disorders, vaginal dryness, and night sweats. Perimenopause continues until a woman has missed 12 menstrual cycles in a row. The period in which her menses are stopping is actual menopause. When a woman has not had a period for 12 months she is considered post-menopausal.
Symptoms of menopause
Common symptoms during menopause include headaches, hot flashes, a decrease in sex drive, vaginal pain or dryness, and breast tenderness. Mood disorders like depression or irritability are common during perimenopause and menopause. Bleeding and cramps can decrease during this time but they can also increase for some women. Premenstrual symptoms may intensify for women during menopause.
Joint pain is a less talked about but still common symptom of menopause. Knees, elbows, shoulders and even hands may begin to ache. Women may feel less flexible than before or experience swelling and inflammation in their joints. Sometimes old injuries seem to "awaken" and hurt again.
What causes joint pain in menopause?
While the exact cause of menopausal joint pain is not known, it is commonly believed it is caused by the decrease of estrogen in the body. As a woman stops ovulating and releasing eggs, her ovaries also reduce the amount of estrogen they produce until they ultimately stop. estrogen decreases inflammation and estrogens decreases in menopause, causing joints to be inflamed or old injuries to ache again. Estrogen also regulates fluid levels in the body, so the entire body becomes less elastic. This could contribute to osteoarthritis, a condition connected with aging and wear on the bones that disproportionately affects menopausal women.
What can help joint pain during menopause?
Ice is an age-old remedy for swelling. Apply ice packs to aching knees or elbows.
Topical Creams with Glucosamine
Pain relief creams that only contain menthol or camphor and fine to relieve some of the pains in your joints, but to help reduce inflammation consider a cream like Aromalief Vegan Hemp Pain Reliever that also contains Hemp without THC, Glucosamine, MSM, and L-Arginine. These ingredients help to reduce inflammation and can increase blood circulation. Glucosamine is especially helpful for joints like your knees. Plus it has lavender essential oil to help with our emotions.
Estrogen Supplements and NSAIDs (careful)
Some doctors provide estrogen supplementation to ease the symptoms of menopause. While over-the-counter pain relievers like NSAIDs and acetaminophen may be used to manage joint pain, supplements, lifestyle changes, and food choices may provide more lasting relief as they get to the root of the problem: inflammation and decreased fluid levels. It is important to not over do it with NSAIDs because over time they may irritate your stomach.
Add a variety of anti-inflammatory foods to your diet like blueberries, leafy greens, turmeric, cinnamon, and dark chocolate. Fatty, cold-water fish and nuts are rich in Omega 3s, oils that lubricate our joints as well as boosting our brain function. These foods are wonderful for healing your body and helping you manage hormonal changes.
Avoid Red Meat and Dairy
Meanwhile, reduce foods like non-grass fed red meats, dairy, fast food, and other highly processed foods because these things cause inflammation. Some diets like Ayurveda and Fodmaps offer strict protocols for reducing inflammation.
Drinking plenty of water is always important! Water keeps your whole being hydrated and is essential for keeping your tissues supple and supporting easeful movement. Herbal tea or electrolyte drinks are fine to consume but steer clear of caffeine, soda, and alcohol. Water is what your body truly needs.
Sometimes it is hard to get enough of the soothing anti-inflammatory nutrients through food alone. Herbal and vitamin supplements are a way to get a strong dose of these nutrients. Curcumin, capsaicin, and turmeric supplements are known for decreasing joint and back pain. A Fish oil supplement provides a strong dose of Omega 3s. Magnesium glycinate is a healthy supplement for women with threatened osteoarthritis. According to the Arthritis Foundation, magnesium glycinate strengthens bones and helps maintain joint cartilage. Evening Primrose is a popular supplement in menopause for many different ailments. Its healing properties may be due to the high number of fatty-acids it contains. These supplements can all be found at most health food stores and some major drug stores.
Massage and Acupuncture
Both massage therapy and acupuncture provide soothing relief for joint pain. Both therapies can reduce inflammation and while increasing circulation.
Chiropractic work helps keep the body in alignment. It is particularly well known for relieving back, shoulder, neck, and hip pain.
Lifestyle choices for Menopause and Joint Pain
If you've been meaning to quit smoking but just haven't gotten around to it yet, let menopause be your motivation. Smoking can amplify all symptoms of menopause, including joint pain.
Exercise helps your entire body feel better. Walking and gentle yoga keeps flexibility up, lubricating joints and reducing joint pain, while also benefitting the heart. If knee pain is keeping you from exercising try a knee compression sleeve. These support sleeves redistribute the weight-bearing load and reduce day-to-day pain from movement. Knee sleeves can even be worn under clothing. A side benefit of exercise that also reduces joint pain is weight loss. The less weight you have to carry around, the less pressure and stress your joints have to endure!
Make sure you have supportive, comfortable shoes for both exercise and daily wear. Shoes provide the base of support for all of the joints in our body. Make sure that your arches and ankles are excellently supported to avoid strain and injury.
Salt baths - either Epsom salt or sea salt - can reduce joint pain. Salt baths are an easy way to decrease stress and inflammation all over the body, as well as the mind.
We spend approximately ⅓ of our lives sleeping and the surface upon which we sleep impacts our pain level. A supportive, firm mattress is ideal for easing joint pain. A firm mattress helps your body maintain good alignment while sleeping.
Reduce your stress. We may know that our mental health impacts our physical well-being but it can be difficult to do something about this. Menopause brings on many changes in a woman's life and it is normal to feel emotional about them. Taking action to reduce your stress level - whether through yoga or meditation, quality rest, support groups, or talking with a counselor - will impact your level of physical pain during menopause. Aromalief also can help with its aromatherapy qualities.
A simple exercise to try is to elevate your legs against a wall, with your back lying on the floor, making an L-shape. Laying in this pose for 5-10 minutes improves circulation and reduces inflammation in the lower limbs, thus easing joint pain. This pose is also recommended for alleviating depression and anxiety, both of which can occur during menopause.
Menopause doesn't last forever. After menopause is completed - or life after menopause - most women are relieved of symptoms like hot flashes and night sweats. Women are still at risk for osteoporosis or joint pain, as well as a decrease in lubrication of their bodies. Suffering is not mandatory! Many lifestyle choices increase fluidity in both your joints and vaginal tissues.
These suggestions are not intended to replace a doctor's visit. Talk with your doctor about joint pain or any other uncomfortable symptoms of menopause. If you try some of the above suggestions, let us know how they have helped you! And please let us know what remedies you have tried that have helped you with the discomforts of menopause.