Surviving joint pain during menopause

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Going through menopause is no mean feat, with night sweats, hot flushes and fatigue daily occurrences, but joint pain is one of the most common and debilitating complaints.

Menopause usually affects women between the ages of 45 and 55 so often the joint pain experienced is put down to the normal ageing process. However, due to the dramatic hormonal changes going on in a woman’s body at this time, these can have a significant effect on joint pain.
Most often menopausal joint pain presents as stiffness and swelling in the hips and knees, but the elbows, neck, shoulders and fingers can also be affected, with existing chronic pain made much worse.

Why do we get joint pain during Menopause?

■ Hormonal changes – oestrogen is responsible for regulating fluid in the body, meaning when its levels fall the body is less able to hold water. The cartilage that supports our joints is made of 80% water, meaning this loss of hydration makes it less effective at absorbing shock and easing friction leading to aches and pains as the joints lack their usual cushioning.
■ Dehydration – dehydration from menopausal night sweats and hot flushes can make it difficult for kidneys to get rid of excess uric acid, which can cause a build-up of tiny, sharp crystals in and around joints, making them inflamed and sore.
■ Stress – when feeling stressed, such as during menopause, our bodies release the inflammatory hormone cortisol, which can make your joint pain worse – combined with the tension that stress brings, our joints end up working harder leading to further inflammation and discomfort.
■ Weight gain -gaining a few extra pounds during menopause is common, but this can put added pressure on weight-bearing joints such as the hips and knees causing extra discomfort.
■ Increased sensitivity to pain – low magnesium levels are very common throughout menopause due to stress and digestive weakness and can impact pain perception. Magnesium helps to keep muscles relaxed, meaning low levels cause muscles to tense up and become stiff in turn affecting the surrounding joints.

How to Treat Menopausal Joint Pain

■ Drink plenty of water to make up for lost hydration from night sweats and hot flushes.
■ Strengthen the muscles and joints via low-impact exercises such as swimming, walking, yoga, or cycling.
■ Practice relaxation techniques such as controlled breathing to help release tension in the body and joints.
■ Use heat or ice pads to help soothe painful joints – a warm bath or shower is great too!
■ Eat foods that ease joint pain such as nuts, seeds, pulses, oily fish, blueberries, olive oils and dark chocolate.
■ Increase your Vitamin D intake, you can do this by exposing your skin to the sunlight.
■ Eat a well-balanced diet and cut out foods that can trigger joint pain, such as alcohol, sweets, cakes, caffeine, and highly processed foods that are high in salt.
■ Try to maintain a good posture. Often when someone is in pain they will hold themselves differently to remove pain from one area, but this adds extra pressure on other joints. Sit and stand up straight as much as you can and don’t limit your range of movement.

Understanding your symptoms and learning how to control them can make a big difference during this difficult time, and many women find joint pain and stiffness ease as their hormonal levels even out! Until it does, focus on improving your diet, stress levels and keeping your body mobile to ensure a great quality of life.