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 they can also be a side effect of menopause. The primary female hormone, estrogen, protects joints and reduces inflammation, but when estrogen levels drop during menopause, inflammation can increase, the risk of osteoporosis and osteoarthritis can go up and the result can be painful joints.
To explain further, osteoporosis, which causes bones to be brittle and weak due to hormonal changes found in women going through menopause, put women at risk for developing osteoarthritis, which is characterized by swollen and painful joints. So, while there may or may not be a direct physical link between menopause and joint pain, the two often go hand-in-hand.
How to Recognize Menopausal Joint Pain:
Menopausal joint pain is usually worse in the morning when joints are stiff from disuse overnight, but tends to lighten up as the day progresses and movement increases. Joints that are most frequently affected during menopause are the neck, jaw, shoulders, wrists and elbows; though other joints in the body may experience pain as well. The discomfort is commonly described as stiffness, swelling, shooting pains and even a burning sensation after working out.
What Can You Do?
If you are going through menopause and experiencing joint pain, there are a few ways to reduce your discomfort and make managing your symptoms a little easier.
1. Get Regular Exercise. It may seem counter-intuitive, but regular exercise is the key to living a life free of joint pain. Countless studies have shown that exercise is good for your mind and your heart, but we now know that it’s also beneficial for bone strength. Choosing consistent, low-impact exercise such as swimming, biking, hiking and yoga, can help prevent your joints from becoming sore and stiff.
2. Maintain a Healthy Diet. In addition to getting regular exercise, eating a healthy, balanced diet will provide your body with the nutrients it needs to endure the unwelcome side effects of menopause, including joint pain. For example, adding protein to your diet can help to promote and maintain muscle mass, which is vital for bone support.
3. Quit Smoking. If you smoke, now is the time to quit. Smoking can increase your risk of cardiovascular issues, diabetes, cancer and even bones loss. Smoking can slow or prevent the ability of your bones to heal properly, meaning joint pain and stiffness may be more common in menopausal women who smoke.
4. Call the Experts. If menopausal joint pain has you unable to live the life you’d like to, we invite you to consult one of our orthopedic doctors in Seattle and surrounding areas to learn what non-surgical or surgical options may be right for you. Specializing in procedures including ACL reconstruction, knee arthroscopy and more, our orthopedic physicians will help you return to a healthy, happy and pain-free life.