Menopause can be challenging for female patients in and of itself. A number of physical changes and hormonal shifts can lead to numerous symptoms which may drastically reduce the quality of life of menopausal individuals along with their overall health. Experts agree that most of the changes for people undergoing menopause are caused by changes in the hormones along with the normal signs of the aging process. Some of these symptoms include hot flashes and night sweats. However, one distressing symptom of menopause is hip pain or pain in general. But is this pain really caused by menopause? What are some of the causes and symptoms of menopausal pain and how can this be treated? In this article, we answer these questions so read on to find out more!
Menopause: A General Overview
Menopause is one of the aging processes’ natural phase. Menopause’s initial stage-referred to as perimenopause- starts with affecting the reproductive ability of women. This stage of menopause typically starts around 40 years old and can last up to five (5) years. A female individual is tagged as menopausal if she goes for one year without having any menstrual period. In the United States (US), menopause on average is believed to occur at around 51 years old.
Both menopause and perimenopause can be initiated by fluctuating and decreasing hormones. During this stage, different systems of the body can be affected by this decline in the levels of hormones. These systems include the skin, bones, brain, heart, nervous system, urinary system, vaginal tract, and the reproductive system. One of the more common symptoms of menopause caused by these hormonal fluctuations though is pain including pain in the hips.
Hormonal Changes and Painful Symptoms During Menopause
The cycle of menstruation is managed by the hormone that is follicle-stimulating and hormone that is luteinizing. Both these kinds of hormones are produced by the pituitary glands and they are responsible for the stimulation of ovaries in the production of progesterone and estrogen. Once menopause and perimenopause kick in, the hormones can experience fluctuations and can result in symptoms that can be painful. Some of these symptoms include:
1. Breast tenderness and cramps
Menstrual period changes can happen along with intense and more painful cramping compared to the kind that they usually encounter in the past. Individuals can also encounter tenderness of the breasts during and before menstruation. These individuals may also observe that their flow of menstruation can sometimes be heavy in some months and light in other months.
2. Headaches caused by migraines
Estrogen fluctuations are also associated with headaches caused by migraines. People can experience these migraines for the very first instance or see increased levels of migraine frequency and severity during these stages of menopause. Some female patients can experience a reaction that can seem reversed and may observe the reduced occurrence of migraines once menopause starts. This could be attributed to increased levels of estrogen which can lead to headaches getting triggered and with levels that are reduced can lead to a decrease.
3. Pain in the Joints
Menopause can also lead to pain in the joints which can affect the hands, elbows, neck, shoulders, and knees. Joint injuries that occurred in the past may start to become painful again. As time passes, the individual may also observe that pains and aches can occur more frequently in the portions of the body that were once prone to pain. This is because inflammation is believed to be reduced by the hormone estrogen. As the said hormone is reduced there may be an increase in the inflammation of joints which can cause arthritis that is menopause-related, discomfort, and generalized pain in the hip area.
the external portion of the body can be affected by hormones that are declining and fluctuating. Estrogen levels that are reduced can lead to the skin losing some of its elasticity. This may also result in the skin losing its ability of water retention which, under normal circumstances, it can use during injuries as a form of buffer. This can lead to thinner skin, and bruising that is more painful is quite often the end result. Bruising is particularly a common occurrence for the back of the hands.
Those female patients diagnosed with the condition known as fibromyalgia, being menopausal can result in increased pain sensitivity. Fibromyalgia is a condition that is chronic resulting in frequent and constant pain and is commonly observed in female patients that are transitioning towards the stage of menopause or perimenopause. In fact, some of the menopause symptoms overlap with that of fibromyalgia such as vaginal dryness, fatigue, and pain. As such, it can sometimes be challenging to ascertain or diagnose which condition is actually contributing to increased pain.
6. Painful Intercourse
When one is experiencing menopause, pain can sometimes be encountered when having sex. This can make it challenging for couples to improve on or retain their intimacy. Fortunately, female individuals can still retain pleasurable sex lives even beyond, during, and right before the onset of menopause. The hormone estrogen which gets drastically reduced during the aforementioned stage can help in keeping the tissues of the vagina elastic. It can also aid in the production of moisture in the female genitals which can contribute to sex that is more comfortable. As the levels of estrogen are reduced, the tissues of the vagina can get thinner. This can, in turn, lead to painful intercourse or sex. In addition, once the vagina experiences reduced lubrication, it can lead to vaginal tearing, dryness, and inflammation.
In addition, vaginal atrophy may also happen. This can lead to the female genitals to have shorter lengths and to shrink. This condition can also be accompanied by other symptoms of the urinary tract such as the need to urinate urgently, a burning sensation while urinating, and urinary leakage. Sexual desire can also be reduced due to hormone levels that are changing and can also lead to the reduced ability to become stimulated sexually (aroused).