• Danielle Slatter

Why does Menopause cause issues with Joint Pain

Menopause can cause joint pain, it can even make old joint injuries begin to ache. As time goes on, you may start to notice more aches and pains in joints and muscles than normal.

Oestrogen helps to keep our cartilage, the connective tissue in joints, healthy. This means it plays an important role in helping to prevent joint inflammation and pain.

As levels of oestrogen naturally decrease during the menopause, the joint protection properties can diminish, causing joint aches and stiffness. This joint pain and swelling most often affects the small joints of the hands and feet. However, other joints such as the knees, elbows and neck joints can also be affected, causing stiffness and reduced movement.

It’s also good to remember, that it is normal to get general aches and pains from normal wear and tear to your joints as you get older. Therefore, joint pain isn’t necessarily always due to the menopause even though it may occur at this time. If you are experiencing wide spread joint pain, the first port of call is always your GP.

However, once you have ruled out any other causes, there are several things you can do to help with joint pain resulting from the menopause, ranging from lifestyle changes to medical treatments.

Lifestyle changes include:

Losing weight. If you’re overweight, controlling your weight can help with MSK (musculoskeletal) pain. You can also start with gentle exercise and gradually build up the intensity.

Reduce your levels of stress. Stress can sometimes make joint pain feel worse. Pain and stiffness can also feel worse if you feel anxious or depressed.

Getting enough quality sleep. Pain often feels worse when you’re tired or if you suffer from insomnia. A good night's sleep is therefore important

Improving your body strength and posture to help reduce muscle and joint pain and improve flexibility and suppleness. Pilates and yoga are both good ways of doing this

Medical Treatment

Simple painkillers may help ease joint pain and stiffness, as might anti-inflammatory gel rubs or tablets. However, speak with your pharmacist or doctor first to ensure these are safe for you to use.

HRT in the form of oestrogen treatment has been shown to cause a sustained reduction in joint pain following the menopause. Various types of HRT are available – it’s best to speak with your doctor about which options may be best suited to you.

So how does massage help menopausal symptoms?

A study by Oliveira et al, showed regular massage therapy can help reduce any sleep related symptoms of perimenopause and menopause by reducing the time that it takes to get to sleep and increasing the quality and length of deep sleep. In another study by Zhou et al, massage therapy was shown to have a significant improvement in 96% of people with insomnia.

Another study by Field et al showed that massage therapy decreases levels of cortisol (stress hormone) by an average of 31% and increases our levels of serotonin and dopamine (the feel-good hormones) by an average of 28% and 31% respectively. During perimenopause and menopause, women are more likely to suffer from anxiety and depression and regular massage can therefore help alleviate these symptoms by reducing stress, boosting feel-good hormones and restoring feelings of being able to cope.

Many women can’t take HRT, or simply prefer to manage the symptoms naturally, massage is a fantastic therapy to incorporate into other changes to your lifestyle. Throughout this period of change, regular massage therapy ensures that women are taking time for themselves, taking time to relax, both mentally and physically, and benefiting from the therapeutic and supportive help that massage can provide.

To summarise the Benefits of Massage for Women in Perimenopause/Menopause

  • Headache relief

  • Tension release

  • Increased range of motion

  • Improved connection to the body, increasing ownership in the process, and rather than a sense of powerless victimhood.

  • Activation of the relaxation response, for less frequent hot flashes.

  • A study by Harvard Medical School’s Women’s Health Services department found that techniques to activate the parasympathetic nervous system, such as deep breathing and massage, can be effective ways to regulate menopause symptoms.

  • Reduced insomnia.

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