Menopause brings a myriad of well-known symptoms like hot flashes and mood swings. However, one symptom that is often overlooked is joint pain. Surprisingly common during menopause, joint pain can significantly impact our quality of life. Let's take a look at what causes achy joints and ways to reduce inflammation and pain.
Achy Joints During Menopause
Do you wake up in the morning feeling as though your joints have swollen overnight and become very stiff? Whether it's your fingers, knees, hips, wrists or shoulders, it's natural to wonder if arthritis is knocking on your door. But don’t worry, many women have trouble with joint pains during menopause.
Joint discomfort during menopause can be frustrating and debilitating, affecting our mobility, flexibility, well-being and overall quality of life. But fear not! With lifestyle changes and, above all, the right nutrition, a lot can be done to alleviate joint pain during menopause.
In this article, we’ll guide you through some of these lifestyle and nutritional changes and give you practical tips that can give you much-needed relief.
What are Typical Symptoms of Joint Pain?
- Joint pain, inflammation and swelling
- Stiff, immobile joints
- Limited mobility and flexibility
When is Joint Pain Particularly Common?
Unlike other menopause symptoms that often disappear in postmenopause, joint pain can persist even when our hormonal levels are no longer fluctuating. Therefore, it is essential to consistently implement and maintain appropriate lifestyle changes, focusing primarily on an anti-inflammatory diet.
Is Joint Pain Common during Menopause?
50-70% of women experience joint pain during menopause. The likelihood of experiencing joint pain and stiffness during or after menopause is about twice as high as during our reproductive years.
How are Joint Pain and Menopause related?
The exact connection between menopause and joint pain is not yet fully understood, but it is clear that there is a link. Most likely, hormonal changes play an important role.
One explanation from experts is the influence of oestrogen. Oestrogen naturally has anti-inflammatory properties. During menopause, oestrogen levels fluctuate greatly and then decrease. As a result, oestrogen can no longer sufficiently protect the joints from inflammation. When the joints become inflamed, they start to hurt, and joint fluid builds up, causing swelling.
Oestrogen also regulates moisture and fluid in our bodies. As oestrogen decreases during menopause, our skin becomes drier and less elastic. The same can apply to the joints.
Additionally, collagen levels in the body significantly decrease with age. Collagen is our structural protein responsible for the strength, elasticity and moisture of the skin, as well as the joints, tendons, ligaments, and cartilage. When collagen levels decline, bones become more brittle, tendons less flexible and joint problems arise.
There are several factors known to worsen joint pain, including excess weight, lack of exercise and physical activity, insufficient hydration, poor nutrition, smoking and stress. All of these factors contribute to joint pain. However, there are also factors that you cannot control, such as previous injuries or genetic predisposition.
Prevention and Relief: How to Ease Joint Pain
Fortunately, there are several things that can be done to alleviate joint pain during menopause, also known as menopausal arthritis.
1. Nutrition: First and foremost, let's talk about diet. Making smart choices when it comes to nutrition can make a remarkable difference in alleviating joint pain during this transitional phase. It’s a good idea to reduce or avoid foods that promote inflammation, and embrace those that combat it. Think of vibrant plant-based options rich in fibre, vitamins, minerals and those incredible phytonutrients. And don't forget the importance of incorporating healthy fats like omega-3s, which can work wonders for your joints.
2. Exercise & Movement: The idea of exercising with achy joints might not be the most appealing thing in the world, but trust us, it's a game-changer. Regular physical activity not only helps keep your joints lubricated but also strengthens the surrounding muscles, providing much-needed support.
Activities such as yoga, swimming or cycling are gentle on the joints while delivering fantastic benefits. Moreover, shedding a few extra pounds can alleviate pressure on your joints, so consider embracing a healthier lifestyle to improve your mobility and alleviate pain and discomfort.
3. Hydration: Staying hydrated is another vital aspect to consider. Proper hydration ensures your tissues remain happy and well-moisturised. Menopause can sometimes disrupt our body's water retention, so it's crucial to drink an adequate amount of fluids – approximately two litres per day. Regularly drinking green tea is also a good idea. It contains a powerful compound called EGCG that actively combats inflammation.
4. Reduce Stress: Let's not overlook the impact of stress on our joints. We all know that excessive stress can wreak havoc on our bodies and our joints are no exception. When stress levels rise, our bodies produce more of the hormone, cortisol, exacerbating joint inflammation. It's essential to find effective ways to reduce stress and to prioritise a good night's sleep to keep joint pain at bay.
Alternatives & Products
Consider giving your body a little extra support by incorporating omega-3s from algae oil, magnesium and vitamin D into your daily routine. These supplements have shown promise in promoting joint health. Additionally, collagen supplementation can provide further support and nourishment for your joints.
In the case of acute inflammation, using ice can help alleviate pain. Applying an ice pack or cold compress for 20 minutes can reduce swelling. Always remember to wrap the ice pack or cold compress in a cloth so as to not damage your skin.
Magnesium strengthens bones, maintains nerve and muscle function, regulates heart rhythm and blood sugar levels and helps preserve joint cartilage.
In addition to changes in oestrogen levels, joint discomfort during menopause can also have other causes. There may be instances where medical intervention is necessary. If joint discomfort persists or has underlying causes,it’s best to seek advice from a medical professional. They can assess your situation and recommend appropriate measures, such as low-dose hormone therapy or other targeted solutions tailored to your unique needs.
Remember, it's crucial to use pain medication judiciously and under the guidance of a healthcare provider. Long-term relief requires addressing the root causes rather than relying solely on painkillers.
The information in our articles is based on scientific studies and evidence-based science. Feel free to visit the following sources if you want to dive deeper into the topic or read the studies and articles.
Maturitas. 2010 Sep;67(1):29-33. doi: 10.1016/j.maturitas.2010.04.009.
Clinical Dermatology, 32(7), 975-981
Endocrinol Metab Clin North Am. Author manuscript; available in PMC 2016
Post Reprod Health. 2018 Mar;24(1):34-43. doi: 10.1177/2053369118757537. Epub 2018 Feb 7.