The list of menopausal side effects is extensive – from mood swings to hot flashes, fatigue and more; and while achy, swollen joints are a common side effect of aging, recent studies have found that it’s also one of the side effects of menopause.
Joint pain affects many people as they get older and is also common among menopausal women. Aches, stiffness and swelling around the joint and sometimes heat are common symptoms of menopausal joint pain. As a woman approaches menopause, her body goes through drastic hormonal fluctuations that can affect her in many ways. The medical community is unclear as to why menopause seems to have this effect on joints. One theory is that estrogen affects joints by keeping inflammation down. As estrogen levels decline, the joints can swell and become painful.
Menopause symptoms, such as joint pain is associated with both osteoporosis and arthritis. Osteoporosis is a condition in which the bones lose density and can become brittle. Arthritis is the medical term for “inflammation,” and can refer to many different types of joint conditions. Some of the most common types of arthritis are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. These conditions are complicated and varied, so it’s important to make an appointment with us to discuss your concerns.
What Does Joint Pain Feel Like?
Menopausal joint pain usually hits the worst in the morning and eases as the joints loosen up with the day’s activities. Most women complain of pain in the neck, jaw, shoulders, and elbows, but wrists and fingers can also be affected.
The pain can be accompanied by stiffness, swelling, or even a shooting pain traveling down the back, arms, and legs. Some women report more of a burning sensation, especially after a work-out.
Easing Joint Pain During Menopause
Aching fingers, tight hips, sore knees…joint pain is one of the most common symptoms of menopause. If you’re feeling a bit stiff and sore, especially in the mornings, there are things you can do to manage the inflammation and pain.
Making an appointment with your primary care physician or gynecologist is a good first step towards alleviating your joint pain; however, there are many simple, non-invasive ways to treat joint pain by making some changes to your daily routine.
Exercise is a great way to strengthen your joints and stay flexible. Swimming, tai chi, and yoga are great options for seniors. Avoid activities that put a lot of strain on your joints, like jogging. Staying active can also help keep your weight down, which can relieve some of the pressure on your joints.
It gives you more energy and joint flexibility, eases depression, and fights heart disease. It curbs the weight gain and insomnia that often come with menopause. Weight-bearing exercise helps protect against osteoporosis. This may be lifestyle changes you may need to make to lessen your menopause symptoms.
Cortisol, the stress hormone, is known to excite inflammation in the joints. Practicing stress relief techniques and getting regular exercise can manage cortisol levels.
Watch your diet
Diets high in carbohydrates and sugars and low in omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to trigger chronic inflammation. Replace white bread, white rice, and flour with whole grain foods like wheat bread and pasta, oatmeal, brown rice, and quinoa. Choose seafood like fresh tuna, salmon, and mackerel, and seek out leafy greens like kale and spinach. Some foods, like blackberries, blueberries, and cherries, provide the body with natural anti-inflammatories. You can also supercharge your diet with omega-3 and vitamin D supplements.
Hyaluronic acid might help lubricate the joints, and ibuprofen can help relieve everyday aches and pains.
Hormone Replacement Therapy
Hormone replacement therapy is the most effective treatment for menopausal symptoms.
Every woman is different. Some with rheumatoid arthritis find that menopause can affect their RA.
Researchers aren’t sure why, but hormones seem to play a role in RA. Nearly three times as many women get the disease as men. Many women who have it see their symptoms improve while they’re pregnant. This may be because their estrogen levels go up during pregnancy.
Estrogen levels drop around the time of menopause. When that happens, RA symptoms may worsen. Some women first get symptoms around the time they start menopause.
You might think that taking estrogen would reduce RA symptoms along with the symptoms of menopause, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. And because hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is linked with heart disease — another increased risk for women with rheumatoid arthritis – doctors rarely recommend it for treating menopause symptoms in women with RA.
What if my Joint Pain is Severe?
If fever or weight loss accompanies your joint pain, or if the pain becomes worse and lasts more than a few days, please contact your doctor.