Joint aches were one of the first symptoms I started to notice alongside the more common hot flushes and night sweats, but initially I didn’t associate these aches and pains with the menopause.
After experiencing months of aching joints, I was actually quite relieved to find out there was another reason I often felt like a creaking gate…I mean, I was only in my 40s surely this wasn’t meant to happen until at least your 60s!
I wonder how many of you after a long car journey find yourselves having to literally unfold yourselves out of your car, and then look like a complete plonker doing stretches and bends just to get going again. Even just sitting at a desk working away on your computer can make you seize up…familiar? One of the worst things for me was finishing a bike ride. I can’t profess to being either speedy, or to even go for terribly long cycles, but I do regularly try and fit in a tootle around the country lanes. After every cycle though I would get off my bike and be literally bent at a 45 degree angle (yes it is a road bike!), it would then take me a good 5 or 10 minutes to unfurl!
Joint aches aren’t often associated with the menopause. Most women being of a certain age they assume that it’s just part of the ageing process, which it is to a certain extent, with age the cartilage at the end of your bones will naturally start to get worn and lack of oestrogen affects the ligaments around the joints. Joints can become stiff, swollen, inflamed, tender and ever get that creaking, crackling noise when moving certain joints?! All these symptoms are associated with osteoarthritis and are very common, affecting each individual to differing degrees, but lack of oestrogen contributes to these aches and pains as well.
Oestrogen plays an important role in maintaining joint and bone health although no one is certain how it does this, but it is thought to minimise the swelling around the joint. It is also important for regulating fluid levels in your body so with falling hormone levels you may find your body unable to retain water as efficiently.
It’s very important to keep hydrated, with dehydration contributing to joint pain — the build up of uric acid can contribute to inflammation.
Common joints to be affected are said to be the wrists, neck, shoulders and hips. From talking to many women it can basically be anywhere though and always affects everyone in different ways and to differing degrees.
Fear not there are things you can do …
Ok let’s start off with lifestyle, diet and exercise which you can all manage yourselves
•Non weight bearing exercises – cycling and swimming
•Weight bearing exericses low impact and high impact – walking, dancing, tennis , running, netball.
•Resistance, non-impact exercises like pilates and yoga – helps with core strength, giving better stability which helps reduce risk of falls in later life.
Pilates and yoga also reduce stress levels – when stressed your body can release high quantities of the hormone cortisol which works as an inflammatory agent that in turn makes joint aches more painful. Much better to get those endorphins released.
•Weightloss – essential – obesity is one of the biggest contributory factors when it comes to joint pains.
•Take time to relax and breath!
• Always helps if you can get a regular massage but realise this is a luxury for most of us, but give yourself the odd treat when you can!
•HRT (hormone replacement therapy) – can have remarkable results as you are obviously replacing the oestrogen which is lacking.
• If you don’t want to go down the hormonal route you can be prescribed an anti inflammatory – but these tend to only treat immediate relief of the pain, don’t address the cause of the symptom and are not advised to be on longterm.
•*Glucosamine supplement (1500mg daily try for a month), it’s derived from shellfish so careful if allergic to shellfish. It occurs naturally and is one of the building blocks of cartilage ( made by combination of glucose and amino acid glutamine, by the enzyme glucosamine synthesise ). Some people swear by this supplement, as always if it works for you and there are no side effects then it’s a no brainer.
So in summary, keep moving and exercising, eat a healthy balanced diet and give yourself the odd bit of tlc when you can, always good to get some down time and relax.
*Insufficent evidence to support the use of glucosamine in osteoarthritis so therefore not funded by NHS but if it works even on a placebo level then try. NICE looked at Cochrane report in 2005 and update in 2007 which showed glucosamine to be superior to placebo for treatment of pain and functional impairment for symptomatic osteoarthritis. Safe as a placebo.
Images : Darren Quigley