Muscle & Joint Pain During Menopause: Causes and How to Make it Easier
When you think of menopause, many of us think about hormone changes, hot flashes, and the absence of a menstruation cycle. While these are all key features, another often-overlooked symptom is muscle and joint pain.
For most women, this type of muscle and joint pain and discomfort is not only normal but also very common. While it’s certainly frustrating to deal with, it can be managed with the help of a few healthy habits. These tips can help to reduce your pain while also making it easier for you to go about living your life.
What Causes Muscle and Joint Pain During Menopause?
Muscle and joint pain is a common symptom that many women experience when entering menopause. As frustrating and sometimes even debilitating as it may be, there is one major culprit behind this symptom: inflammation.
Hormone levels rise and fall throughout menopause, causing a host of symptoms to run their course (i.e. hot flashes, absence of menstruation, insomnia, mood swings, etc.). Among these changes, the drop in estrogen levels is the most significant. Since estrogen is an anti-inflammatory hormone, a deficiency of it can be directly related to muscle and joint pain.
Beyond hormones, other causes for pain symptoms include carrying excess weight, poor diet, smoking, stress, and dehydration.
Developing a Pain-Free Lifestyle
While common over-the-counter medications can help, making a few lifestyle changes is another great way to reduce muscle and joint pain during menopause.
1. Eat More Anti-Inflammatory Foods
As mentioned above, inflammation is a major reason for our aches and pains during menopause. Thanks to swelling and tissue buildup during inflammation, our nerves send a signal to our brain that triggers pain and discomfort in the area.
In the effort to fight off inflammation, it’s helpful to eat more foods that are rich in antioxidants (i.e. broccoli, avocados, spinach, berries, and green tea) as well as anti-inflammatory foods (i.e. fatty fish, cherries, lentils, chia seeds, and dark chocolate). Highly inflammatory foods to avoid include any refined carbohydrates, fried foods, red meats, and sweets or soda.
2. Stay Hydrated
Drinking more water throughout the day helps to keep your tissues moist and supple, helping to improve your joint mobility. During menopause, your body is unable to retain water like it used to. In the efforts to replace lost moisture, it’s beneficial to drink more water and avoid dehydrating beverages such as alcohol, soda, or coffee.
3. Get More Exercise
Exercise is a fundamental component of our physical health and well-being, especially throughout menopause. Adding low-impact activities to your daily routine such as yoga, walking, or swimming can help improve mobility, lubricate joints, and allow for more pain-free movement.
Along with these aerobic activities, menopausal women experiencing muscle and joint pain can also benefit from adding weight training into their daily practices. Strength training is proven to help support muscles around a joint and help to keep them stable during movement — the more stable your joints are, the less likely you’ll experience pain or injury.
4. Minimize Your Stress
Stress is a lesser-known culprit behind your muscle and joint pain. When we experience stress, the rise in cortisol levels leads to an immediate inflammatory response. Combined with the drop in estrogen levels, it becomes the perfect storm for pain and swelling.
Minimize your stress by practicing 1-2 self-care activities every day that you enjoy. Whether that be meditating, reading a book, or grabbing coffee with a friend, it’s important to make time for yourself in a positive and fulfilling way.
5. Supplement Key Vitamins and Minerals
Another beneficial way to fight off muscle and joint pain during menopause is by supplementing essential nutrients. In addition to a well-balanced diet, some of the most important vitamins and minerals to help combat symptoms of menopause include:
- Vitamin D: Among its many jobs, estrogen also helps increase enzyme activity to activate vitamin D. As estrogen levels fall, supplementation of vitamin D is necessary to avoid deficiency and help support bone and joint health.
- Calcium: Working in combination with vitamin D, calcium is another essential nutrient that helps prevent menopause-associated bone loss.
- Magnesium: This micronutrient helps to keep bones strong, prevent osteoporosis, and maintain nerve and muscle function in menopausal women.
- Vitamin A: Since inflammation is a root cause of aches and pain, vitamin A is beneficial to supplement as it acts as an antioxidant and helps to control immune response.
The Bottom Line
Menopause can be an overwhelming time for women, especially those who experience a wide range of painful or uncomfortable symptoms. Fortunately, there are ways to manage these symptoms to help you live a pain-free, comfortable lifestyle.