How to Relieve Menopause Joint Pain
The list of menopause side effects is lengthy, and joint pain is no exception. More than half of menopausal women experience newly onset joint pain.
But what causes the onset of joint pain during menopause, and how can you avoid it?
What is the Relationship Between Joint Pain and Menopause?
Joint pain during menopause can be attributed to dramatic hormonal changes, a prominent contributor to most menopause symptoms.
During menopause, estrogen levels fall, leading to joint swelling and pain. Also, joints contain estrogen receptors that provide protection and keep inflammation low.
Thus, a decrease in estrogen would decrease bone density and increase inflammation. This puts menopausal women at a greater risk for osteoporosis and osteoarthritis.
What is Joint Pain?
Joint pain, medically known as arthralgia, is pain arising from where two bones meet.
This joint pain can stem from inflammation in other parts of the joint such as cartilage, tendon, muscle, bone, or ligaments. Most commonly, the pain stems from inflammation within the joint itself.
The development of joint pain can significantly impact one’s quality of life. The pain can range from mild to severe, significantly limiting mobility and activities of daily living.
Joint Pain Symptoms
The symptoms of joint pain vary between each individual as well as the level of severity. For some menopausal women, joint pain can be debilitating.
Symptoms of joint pain include:
- Pain when moving or bending the joint
- Decreased mobility
- Swelling and inflammation
- Clicking noises when bending a joint
- Lingering aches and pains
- The site of the joint appears red and warm to the touch
Menopause Joint Pain Treatments
If you begin experiencing joint pain during perimenopause or menopause, it is important to know how to treat it.
The good news is that there are many natural ways to tackle joint pain. Simple lifestyle changes can alleviate menopause-related joint pain and help you feel your best.
Besides assisting with many other menopause symptoms, exercise is particularly helpful in treating and preventing joint pain.
Regular physical activity helps to control inflammation, minimize bone loss, and strengthen muscles surrounding the joints.
Physical activity can also aid in lubricating the joint cartilage, thereby improving joint mobility.
Per CDC guidelines, adults should aim for 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week and two days of strength training.
Both physical and emotional stress can increase inflammation and effectively contribute to joint pain. When stressed, we tense up our muscles which leads to pain and stiffness over time.
Exercise effectively lowers cortisol, a stress hormone that contributes to inflammation.
Meditation, aromatherapy, and quality time with loved ones are other simple ways to reduce stress levels.
Follow an Anti-inflammatory Diet
As the saying goes, we are what we eat. Our dietary choices greatly impact our health, and that of our joints is no exception.
Highly processed foods are a prominent contributor to inflammation. These include most snacks, sweetened beverages, sodas, fried foods, refined grains, and highly processed meats.
The culprits in highly processed foods are excessive carbohydrates, added sugars, and unhealthy fats, which have been shown to influence chronic inflammation.
Nutrients such as fiber, omega-3 fatty acids, and antioxidants are known to fight inflammation.
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Achieving an adequate amount of rest each night can help fight menopausal joint pain.
Sleep deprivation leads to the development of inflammation in the body which can exacerbate aches and pains in the joints.
Interestingly, this relationship works both ways.
During rest, you do not actively move your joints, which decreases lubrication and can increase pain. This is why it is important to stay active during the day to give your joints the movement they need.
Supplements for Menopause Joint Pain
If you are looking for a natural way to treat menopausal joint pain, supplements may be a great option for you.
Magnesium is a nutrient that plays a vital role in keeping our bones and joints healthy.
Low levels of magnesium can lead to inflammation, which promotes joint pain.
Magnesium is essential for maintaining bone density and development. Research suggests that magnesium reduces the risk of arthritis and fractures.
Other benefits of magnesium include improving blood pressure and sugar, as well as promoting muscle and nerve health.
Magnesium can be found in foods such as beans, oats, spinach, nuts, avocado, and bananas.
Turmeric is an anti-inflammatory herb that has had medicinal applications for thousands of years.
Curcumin is the main active ingredient in turmeric which provides anti-inflammatory properties.
Turmeric has been shown to be effective in treating rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis. It reduces joint swelling, pain, and stiffness.
Turmeric may ease other menopause symptoms.
Ginger is another anti-inflammatory herb with promising applications in joint pain relief.
Studies show that ginger extract can reduce proinflammatory substances in the body. This, in turn. reduces joint inflammation.
Ginger can also help to ease the discomfort produced by joint pain.
Fish oil is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which have anti-inflammatory effects and can effectively reduce pain in the joints.
This oil keeps the joints healthy by protecting and supplementing joint tissue.
This supplement can help keep the joints and tissues lubricated, which minimizes pain and swelling.
Fish oil supplements may also help prevent heart disease and protect brain function.
Low levels of vitamin D have been shown to contribute to joint pain.
Vitamin D strengthens and protects bone health. This nutrient is essential in preventing osteomalacia, softening bones, and osteoporosis, the loss of bone mass.
Vitamin D can be obtained from salmon and fortified products such as orange juice, milk, and cereals. Additionally, sunlight exposure prompts your body to produce Vitamin D naturally.
Supplementation for joint health is beneficial for individuals with a known deficiency.
As estrogen loss is the culprit of many menopause symptoms, such as joint pain, supplementation is a valuable option for pain relief.
Our joints contain estrogen receptors which protect bones and joints as well as keep inflammation low.
Estrogen supplementation may not be explicitly indicated for joint pain but in combination with other recurring menopause symptoms.
This supplement is a compound naturally produced by the body, yet supplementation can offer relief from joint pain.
Glucosamine is essential in maintaining cartilage health, which cushions our joints, preventing pain.
Supplementation has proven valuable in treating arthritis and other inflammatory diseases. Glucosamine is a valuable option for those who are unable to take NSAIDs (Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs).
Hormone Replacement Therapy
Hormone replacement therapy has proven to be effective in reducing menopause symptoms.
Medication that contains female hormones is taken to replace the estrogen lost during menopause.
As the decline in estrogen is a primary cause of joint pain and many other menopause symptoms, this therapy is beneficial for many women.
Hormone therapy can be valuable for those who are at a high risk of loss of bone density. Estrogen can prevent bone loss, which can lead to osteoporosis and osteoarthritis.
Over-the-counter medications are an option to provide quick relief from aching joints.
NSAIDSare very effective in alleviating joint pain by reducing inflammation.
They include ibuprofen, naproxen, and aspirin. Tylenol is not an NSAID but can also help reduce joint pain.
These medications are not meant to be taken daily to treat joint pain. Talk to your doctor if you feel you need daily medication to ease your pain.
When to See a Doctor
If joint pain becomes severe and begins to impact daily activities and quality of life, it may be time to see a doctor.
Visiting a practitioner will help you identify the source of the joint pain and the best course of action for treatment.
Consider contacting your doctor if:
- You develop a fever that is not related to flu-like symptoms
- Unintended weight loss (10 lbs or more)
- Pain persists for several days, and mobility becomes limited
- The site of a joint appears red and warm to the touch
The doctor will perform a physical exam to evaluate for any abnormalities. If warranted, blood work may be needed to rule out infection.
Preventing or reducing joint pain is essential in maintaining your quality of life while your body adjusts to complex menopause changes.
The good news is that there are many options when it comes to tackling joint pain.
Simple lifestyle changes such as exercising, reducing stress, and consuming an anti-inflammatory diet, can protect against aches and pains.
Further, supplements and nutrients are good options for promoting joint health naturally.
“How to relieve menopause joint pain” was written by soon-to-be Registered Dietitian Stephanie Maurici. Edited by Dr. Su-Nui Escobar, RDN.
Dr. Su-Nui Escobar is a Registered Dietitian/Nutritionist in Miami, FL. She is passionate about helping women over 40 live their best lives through healthy eating and a healthy lifestyle. Su-Nui is a doctor in clinical nutrition, able to translate complicated evidence-based science into practical advice. Su-Nui is the former spokesperson of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.