One symptom that is fairly common with menopause is joint aches and pains. This article explains the various reasons for joint pain in menopausal women and how to recognize what is the root cause.
Disclaimer – I am not a physician so use this advice for information purposes only. It is not intended to provide diagnosis or treatment of any of the conditions mentioned.
What causes joint aches and pains
There are several possible causes of joint pain. This article takes a look at these causes and what the symptoms are for each.
There is some indication that joint pain may be a direct symptom of menopause. Estrogen helps to reduce inflammation that can contribute to joint aches and pains. This means that once estrogen levels drops you may experience more pain in joints. However, it is also possible that the joint pain you are experiencing is a symptom of something else.
Women in their 50s also may start to develop osteoarthritis. Arthritis is when joints become swollen and painful. With osteoarthritis the cartilage protecting the joints begins to break down. This leads to pain, loss of range of motion and loss of joint function. Inflammation can result after the disease has been present for some time.
Osteoarthritis is caused by usual wear and tear of the joint. If you are overweight or have had a previous injury you are more likely to develop osteoarthritis. There is no indication that exercises like running contribute to osteoarthritis, but after osteoarthritis has developed, high impact activities are not recommended as they tend to make it worse.
Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease where the joints are attacked by the immune system. This causes a painful swelling in the joints. It can also lead to stiffness in the joints and eventually loss of function and even deformities.
Rheumatoid arthritis can develop rapidly unlike osteoarthritis which develops slowly over the years. It can also flare up and then go into remission. Early signs include redness of the joint, loss of range of motion, tenderness and warmth at the joint.
Osteoporosis is a condition where bones become porous and lose their strength. It is considered a silent disease and will not produce pain unless a fracture has occurred. Many women do not know they have the condition until a fracture has occurred.
Fractures from osteoporosis are most common in the spine, hip shoulders and wrists. Fracture is often the result of a trauma like a fall, but spinal compression fractures can occur from everyday events like sneezing.
For more information on osteoporosis check out this article.
With this condition you more likely have pain over a broad area of your body including muscles and joints. Other symptoms like fatigue, anxiety, irritable bowel syndrome and numbness or tingling are associated with fibromyalgia.
With fibromyalgia there appears to be no physical cause that can be detected on x-rays or with other scans. It might be caused by an issue with the way your brain handles pain
Muscle imbalances are a common reason for joint pain when exercising. An example of this would be if your inner thigh muscles are tight and outer thigh muscles are weak. If you squat or lunge, the knee will not align properly and this can result in pain. Similar alignment issues can occur in the shoulder. Repeating exercises and daily acitivities with poor alignment can lead to injury and to osteoarthritis.
How can you get relief from joint pain
This is one of the best ways to get relief from joint pain. Exercise helps to:
- Reduce joint pain
- Strengthen muscle around the joint
- Increase range of motion in the joints
- Maintain weight so weight is not as much of a factor
- Maintain the strength of your bones
- Helps to relieve symptoms of fibromyalgia
Include inflammation reducing foods like:
- Turmeric and ginger
- Fatty fish like salmon
- Chia and flax seeds
Reduce inflammation causing foods.
Any food that you are sensitive to can cause inflammation. Food sensitivities seem to become more common with menopause, because of changes to gut bacteria. Some common food sensitivities are:
- Dairy – both allergies and intolerances of dairy are common. Lactose intolerances are the most common, but there are intolerances and allergies to other components of dairy products
- Gluten – celiac disease and non celiac gluten sensitivities
- FODMAPs – these are a type of carbohydrate found in many types of foods
Check out my article on food sensitivities here for more information. One thing to keep in mind is that food intolerances may be temporary and foods can be reintroduced once the gut has healed.
Other inflammation causing foods are:
- Sugar and other sweeteners
- Refined carbohydrates
- Trans fats
- Processed meat
- Refined oils
Practice stress reduction
Stress can play a role in inflammation and also in the development of rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia. Try meditation, yoga practice or any other form of stress reduction.
Other things that you can do to lower your risk of developing joint pain:
- Stop smoking
- Lose weight if you are overweight (helps with arthritis)
- Gain weight if you are underweight (helps prevent osteoporosis)
If you have joint pain during menopause, then you are not alone. Understanding what the cause of the joint pain is can help you know how you should be addressing the issue.