There is hardly anyone who has ever had muscle cramps, especially leg cramps. From expert surveys, about one-third of American seniors experience cramps. A survey of those who are 80 and above shows that about half experience cramps. Some of them even report having symptoms for as long as ten years. Sometimes, they even last longer. They usually strike without any warning, mostly at night. Usually, these cramps will subside slowly as you engage the extremity on a stretch. We know that athletes experience leg cramps a lot. These are induced by exercise. That gives the idea that leg cramps can occur as a result of muscle fatigue, tissue ischemia, and electrolyte imbalance. But then, many leg cramps occur with no form of physical exertion or dehydration. What’s the deal with leg cramps after menopause? We’ll talk about it in this article.
Menopause occurs as a result of dwindling progesterone and estrogen levels. As these hormones reduce, menstruation will eventually stop completely. This season of life comes with various symptoms for women. Some of them include mood swings, hot flashes, sleep disturbances, and mood swings. Other symptoms include urinary tract issues and vaginal dryness. The symptoms are diverse, but leg cramps are not one of the common ones we hear. Menopausal women often suffer stomach cramps, as well as leg cramps. These cramps often have a sudden onset, but some people suffer more cramps than others. The pain is often sharp and shooting to the point that it can wake you from sleep.
Causes of Leg Cramps after Menopause
The following are common causes of menopausal leg cramps:
1. Magnesium deficiency
As estrogen levels fall, your magnesium level can begin to fall too. This is because low estrogen can affect how your body absorbs magnesium. This can have negative effects on different areas of your health.
We know that a poor diet may play a role too. We know stress also burns magnesium up a lot. All of these contribute to magnesium deficiency in menopause. This can cause symptoms like cramps, mostly at night. You may get restless legs too. And those can cause serious pain. Jumpy legs, as well as needles and pins, can develop too. If you have these symptoms alongside leg cramps, it may be due to magnesium deficiency.
2. Fluid imbalance
The second common cause of menopausal leg camps is an imbalance in your body fluid. Falling estrogen usually interferes with certain hormones that regulate fluid balance in your body. This means that you may experience dehydration just “out of the blues” after menopause.
To add to this problem, most people at menopausal age nowadays do not drink enough water. What most people drink are fizzy drinks, fruit juices, tea, or coffee. Then, night sweats and hot flashes may make you lose lots of water too. All of these contribute to the common problem of dehydration at menopause.
Aside from the leg cramps, if fluid imbalances are the cause of your leg cramps, you will likely have a few other symptoms like swollen legs and ankles. Your legs can also get achy and tired. You may also have the general symptoms that come with dehydration.
3. Circulatory issues
Your circulation may experience some decline at menopause. This is also tied to falling estrogen. Your circulation may become somewhat sluggish at this point. One factor that may aggravate this particular cause is sedentary living. If you do a job that requires you to sit at the table all year long, your risks are high.
Fatigue comes with menopause and this can indirectly affect circulation too. When you are very tired, you will not be able to exercise well. And that can slow your circulation. Dehydration is another possible factor. Dehydration also interferes with circulation.
Leg cramps from circulatory problems may cause swollen legs and ankles too. Aside from that, you will experience tired legs, hot legs, and restless legs. You may also have varicose veins too.
4. Structural problems
Structural problems can also cause leg cramps at menopause. This is because of the change in posture that may occur after menopause. Postural change often happens because menopausal changes can affect your joints and pull on your posture.
Sitting and slouching over time may also cause postural problems as you approach menopause. This is more likely if you have to sit at an office desk all through the day. This may affect your shoulders, hips, and lower back. You may also experience leg pain and swollen ankles.
Leg problems as a result of structural issues will cause general pains and aches too. You may even end up having pain in your knees and ankles.
Sore feet are another major problem that you may have. So as you walk, you may notice that your soles begin to gradually get sore. If that has never been a problem, you can suspect structural problems. You may also get sore hips, as well as general pain.
Diagnosis and Treatment
If you have leg cramps in menopause, you may need to see your doctor. If your doctor rules out any other underlying cause, then it may be the result of menopause. But remember that there are different mechanisms and you may need some evaluations and tests to find out the exact mechanism. If you know this, then you can treat the cramps appropriately.
If you have leg cramps from magnesium deficiency, you should get a high-quality magnesium supplement. And to foster water retention, you may consider some herbal teas. But if you also have swollen legs and ankles, you should get checked by your physician. It could be a sign of another health issue.
To combat dehydration, you should drink adequate amounts of water. And for posture issues, do stretching and strengthening exercises. Also, adjust both your standing and your sitting posture if need be. Also, make sure to sit up straight at your office desk daily.
Leg cramps after menopause are more common than many people think. But it is not usually a life-threatening issue. However, make sure you report to your physician if you are experiencing this symptom and take proper steps to treat it.