Do you ache when you get up in the morning?
Do you have sore knees?
It's not unusual to feel a few more creaks and aches as we age, but if you're going through menopause, you might notice these nudges from your joints a bit more.
Why do those old back or joint issues flare up during this time?
Have you reached for that yoga mat more often to ease the stiffness?
Those niggles in your joints, the stiffness that greets you in the morning, or the need to stretch more can often be traced back to the hormonal rollercoaster that is menopause. It's not just your imagination—your body is responding to some pretty significant changes.
Joints are like biological puzzles made up of bones, cartilage, muscles, ligaments, and a little thing called synovium.
They all have something in common: they're buddies with oestrogen and have an abundance of oestrogen receptors. When oestrogen levels dip, as they do in menopause, inflammation can sneak in, leading to more friction and, yep, pain in those joints. This is why some folks on medications like aromatase inhibitors, which mess with oestrogen, might also complain of joint pain.
Progesterone, too, has a relaxing effect, so menopause can create a double whammy for joint pain.
As we age, our bodies also start to skimp on collagen production, the protein that's like the scaffolding for our joints. So less collagen might lead to less happy joints, right?
The pain itself? It's a chameleon. It can show up as a persistent dull ache, a sudden twinge, or even a shooting pain, and it's as unique as you are. It's also worth noting that this oestrogen drop doesn't just change the pain game; it can also turn up the volume of how you perceive pain.
During menopause, women are also more likely to get osteoarthritis, especially in the hands.
You can be proactive about joint care during menopause.
Here are some tips:
1. Keep moving: Gentle exercise keeps joints nimble. Think of it as greasing the hinges.
2. Quit smoking: There is never a good reason to smoke, to be honest.
3. Chill out: Stress isn't doing your joints any favours, so find your zen.
4. Watch your weight: Extra pounds mean extra work for your joints, particularly the hips, knees, and ankles.
5. Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT): It's been shown to help. Chat with your doctor about it.
6. Soak up some vitamin D: It's essential for bone health.
7. Look at what you eat! Think Mediterranean diet style: Think of it as your daily dose of self-care on a plate.
Here's a more detailed anti-joint pain menu:
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids:
Start your day with omega-3-rich foods like sardines, mackerel, and wild salmon, or sprinkle some walnuts, almonds, chia seeds, flaxseeds, or pumpkin seeds onto your meals.
They're not just tasty—they can help reduce that pesky morning stiffness.
- Herbs and Spices:
Season your dishes with turmeric, cayenne pepper, ginger, parsley, garlic, and rosemary. These aren't just for flavour; they're nature's anti-inflammatory agents. Ginger, in particular, is a heavy hitter against pain.
- Colourful Vegetables:
Fill your plate with a rainbow of vegetables. The antioxidants and phytonutrients packed in these vibrant foods help guard against cartilage wear and tear.
- Collagen Boosters:
If you're looking to boost collagen, which supports joint health, consider foods like bone broth, chicken stock, and, for the vegans among us, tofu, nuts, and seeds. You can also opt for a high-quality collagen supplement – in powder form.
- Vitamin C-Rich Foods:
Increase collagen production with a good dose of Vitamin C.
This vital nutrient can be abundant in blackcurrants, broccoli, brussel sprouts, citrus fruits, strawberries, tomatoes, parsley, and peppers.
Adding these to your meals not only supports joint health but can also boost your immune system.
This mineral plays a crucial role in cartilage synthesis and overall muscle relaxation, which can help alleviate tension and stiffness. You can find magnesium in green leafy vegetables and pumpkin seeds. For a relaxing experience, consider an Epsom salt bath.
Now, there are some foods you might want to break up with:
- Hydrogenated Fats:
Often hiding in processed foods, margarine, some baked goods, and snacks, these fats can be inflammatory. Instead, cook with heart-healthy oils like extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, or avocado oil.
It's not just about the sweet tooth; sugar can stir up inflammation and disrupt your blood sugar balance, which may increase cortisol levels and add to inflammation. Also, be wary of refined grains for similar reasons.
- Common Inflammatories:
For some, beef, pork, soy, peanuts, gluten, and dairy are the usual suspects for inflammation. Consider cutting out one at a time for a few weeks to see if your joints thank you. And if you're ever in doubt or need a bit of guidance, chatting with a nutritionist can make all the difference.
Joint pain during menopause can sometimes be a sign of other underlying conditions that could be mistaken for typical menopausal discomfort or vice versa. Two such conditions are:
1. Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) - RA is an autoimmune disorder characterised by inflammation leading to your immune system attacking your joints. This results in symptoms such as joint pain, tenderness, and swelling.
2. Fibromyalgia - This condition is known for causing widespread and persistent pain in the musculoskeletal system. It can impact the entire body, joints included, and is often accompanied by headaches, constant fatigue, sleep issues, and cognitive disturbances, and may also present with symptoms akin to those of irritable bowel syndrome.
It's crucial to distinguish between these and menopausal symptoms because I've encountered clients whose menopausal symptoms were overlooked due to these diseases.
It's always important to consult a doctor for an accurate diagnosis.
Remember, if you're struggling with joint discomfort during menopause, it's more than just an annoyance—it's your body signalling for a bit of extra care.
While aches and pains may not be the first symptoms that come to mind when we think of menopause, their impact on quality of life can be significant.
They deserve just as much attention and care.
If you find yourself dealing with joint pain during this transitional period, know that you're not alone and support is available.
Please schedule a complimentary call with me to discuss your experiences. This conversation is an opportunity to explore your symptoms and the possible ways to manage them with absolutely no obligation. Remember, acknowledging and addressing your pain is vital to finding relief and improving your daily life.