Menopause has so many disturbing side effects. Talk about mood swings, fatigue, hot flashes, and many more. One of these disturbing effects is joint pain. Menopause and joint pain seem to have a strong link. This is because of the vital role that estrogen (the primary sex hormone in women) plays in joint health. This hormone helps protect your joints, as well as reduces inflammation. However, a rapid drop in estrogen levels is inevitable during menopause. As such, inflammation may increase and you may risk having osteoporosis. Osteoporosis makes your bones to become weak and brittle. This, in turn, increases your risk for osteoarthritis. And when you talk about osteoarthritis, we are talking about painful joints.
So you see that the link between joint pain and menopause is neither direct nor physical. However, the link is so strong that they go hand-in-hand very often. Joint pain due to menopause usually gets worse in early morning hours. This is because your joints would often get stiff due to lack of use over the night. However, as the day goes on and you begin to move around, your joints will lighten up and pain will reduce. More so, menopause affects certain joints more than others. Such joints include neck, shoulders, jaw, elbows, and wrists. However, other joints may experience some pain too.
Menopause and Joint Pain
Joint pains, stiffness, and aches are almost inevitable with age. But then, when women get to menopausal age, usually between ages 45 to 55, they surprisingly discover that one of the symptoms they have to deal with is joint pain, alongside night sweats, mood swings, and hot flashes.
Many women think that old age is the reason why they have joint pain. This is because menopause usually comes along with age. So the effect of menopause, rather than aging, is the reason why many women have joint issues.
Any joint that you use for high-impact movements is very susceptible to menopausal joint pain. That is why your knees and hips are typically the most affected joints. Aside from the common joints, some women also experience pains in their fingers and hands.
Now, menopausal joint pain has more than one mechanism by which it develops. Perhaps the most obvious is the hormonal mechanism.
As we mentioned earlier, hormonal changes at menopause lead to falling estrogen levels. Now, this hormone is more than just a sex hormone. Aside from regulating sexual function, estrogen also helps regulate your body’s fluid levels.
So you could imagine what happens when estrogen is low in your body. Your body will not be able to hold water as well as it used to. This will, in turn, affect the lubrication of your joint tissues. These tissues include your cartilages, tendons, and ligaments.
Now, water makes about 80% of your cartilage. As such, your fluid levels are sure to affect the flexibility of your cartilages. Now, understand that your cartilages function like a cushion and shock absorber for your bones to ease friction. So when it is not flexible enough, the friction between your bones can cause joint pain.
Other Links Between Joint Pain and Menopause
Aside from hormonal fluctuations, menopause has a few other links with joint pain. They are as follows
Excessive sweating is one of the problems that come with menopause. This often leads to dehydration, except you are intentional about your fluid intake.
Water is an essential part of the synovial fluids in your joint. This joint is gel-like for cartilage lubrication. It also helps your joints to move with no friction. You also need water to support the elasticity and flexibility of your tendons and ligaments. If your body is generally dehydrated, joint pain may occur.
Dehydration is more common in the nighttime. More so, because of the common night sweats that come with menopause. As such, you are more likely to experience menopausal joint stiffness and pain in early morning hours.
Aside from that, dehydration may make affect your kidneys function in removing uric acid from your body. This can cause uric acid build-up that will affect your joints, causing soreness and inflammation. Doctors call this gout, which is a form of arthritis.
It may come as a surprise. But stress may negatively affect your joints. Menopause can come with a lot of stress. This can cause a sharp rise in cortisol levels in your body. The effects of cortisol include inflammation (including joint inflammation, which causes pain).
So when you add stress to all the hormone-related and dehydration effects of menopause, what do you get? Your joint issues may get worse. Aside from that, stress may also cause muscle tension and cause further discomfort and inflammation. You should, therefore, find ways to relax daily.
3. Weight gain
Weight gain can add extra pressure on certain joints that bear weight in your body. These include your hips and knees. Experts say that each extra pound of weight adds about 4 extra pounds of pressure on your knees.
Now, dwindling estrogen levels can mess with your carbohydrate metabolism. Unfortunately, this can cause weight gain. Limited physical activity, as well as stress, can also add to excess weight. All of these can add pressure to your joints, limit your mobility, and relieve you of joint pain.
What to Do if You Have Menopausal Joint Pain
Here are a few tips to manage menopausal joint pain symptoms and ease your discomfort:
- Exercise regularly
- Eat healthily
- Drink lots of fluids and make sure to stay hydrated
- Quit smoking and limit alcohol
- Manage stress properly and find ways to relax daily
- Maintain a proper, healthy weight for your height
- Reach out to your physician if joint pain is becoming a long-term problem or if it’s becoming unbearable.
Menopause and joint pain go hand-in-hand quite often. But there are ways to ease the pain and stiffness that may come with menopause. You can try the tips above. They will surely improve your mobility and relieve you of pain.