Do you feel like the Tin Man getting out of bed in the morning? Like everything has seized up and you need someone to come and spray some WD40 to get you moving?
A lot of women don’t know it, but the creakiness that’s set in isn’t down to age – it’s likely to be a sign of the perimenopause or menopause.
Again, this is another symptom you can blame on your hormones.
Oestrogen is likely to play an important role in the onset of musculoskeletal aches and pains in the menopause. Oestrogen affects your cartilage, which is the connective tissue in joints, as well as bone turnover (the natural replacement of bone in your body), so it can play a part in inflammation and pain. Fluid balance could also have a part to play.
The downside of this is as we head into the perimenopause, fluctuating hormones cause our joints to hold less water, which they need to work properly. It’s also thought that low oestrogen may cause some low-grade inflammation too, which may be another reason you’re experiencing menopause joint pain.
Many women find their symptoms are worse in the morning, and generally ease throughout the day, and there doesn’t seem to be a hard-and-fast rule for which areas are most affected.
There are plenty of ways you can ease sore joints which don’t include Dorothy bounding over with your oiling can. From lifestyle switches to supplements, read on to find out how you can leave that creaky feeling behind.
Cartilage is the tough, rubbery tissue that cushions and protects joints, absorbing shock. But surprisingly, it's made up of 80% water. Water is also important for synovial fluid, a sort of gel-like thing your body makes to lubricate joints, so they move nicely.
It goes without saying that if you’re not drinking enough of the wet stuff, your joints are going to be oh-so-achy.
Drink at least two litres across the course of the day. Add a dash of squash if you prefer a bit of flavour.
MAINTAIN A HEALTHY WEIGHT
A common side effect of the menopause is to put on a bit of timber and this excess weight is hard on your joints. In fact, according to the Arthritis Foundation, being just 10 pounds overweight puts an extra 15 to 50 pounds of pressure on your knees.
There are plenty of things you can do to trim down without jumping on the latest diet craze or denying yourself anything that tastes remotely good. See our article on weight gain for some top tips.
TALK TO YOUR GP ABOUT HRT
Hormone Replacement Therapy – HRT for short – essentially does what it says on the tin. It replaces the hormones that your body is naturally losing due to the menopause, helping reduce your symptoms, including joint pain.
There are a number of ways you can take HRT medications, including tablets, patches and creams. Most women can take HRT but there are some risks, which your doctor should discuss with you.
LIFT YOUR WAY LESS STIFF
Although it may seem like the only way to exercise these days is to fling yourself around the front room to a Joe Wicks workout, High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is probably going to make your joint pain worse.
Weightlifting is low impact, meaning it's easy on your joints. Even if you’re just using your own body weight, resistance training will help you shift pounds and build lean muscle, which in turn will relieve pressure on your joints.
Weight-bearing exercises also help you preserve your bone density, which is vital as a drop in oestrogen during menopause can lead to osteoporosis.
Research has suggested people who eat a traditional Mediterranean-style diet are more likely to live a longer life and less likely to become overweight. And more recently, a study by the University of Kent showed that eating this way reduces inflammation and improves knee flex and hip rotation in people with osteoarthritis.
The NHS has loads of advice on following a Mediterranean diet, which generally involves eating oily fish twice a week, loads of colourful vegetables and legumes, lovely breads and pasta drizzled with olive oil, and a lot less meat and dairy. Sounds alright to us...
SUPPORT YOURSELF WITH SUPPLEMENTS
t’s really important to make sure you’re getting enough Vitamin D, calcium, magnesium, potassium and zinc. If you can’t do this through diet alone, you might want to consider taking an all-in-one supplement.
If you’re looking for natural remedies for menopause joint pain, you may also want to consider rubbing arnica gel directly onto affected areas, or taking Devil’s Claw, a plant remedy which has anti-inflammatory properties.
HINTS AND TIPS FOR THOSE WHO WANT TO SUPPORT SOMEONE THEY THINK MAY BE ENTERING OR IN MENOPAUSE
Most of us have experienced joint pain at some point in our lives and know that they’re unpleasant at best, and completely debilitating at worst. Here’s how you can help someone suffering from menopausal stiffness.
OUR ADVICE TO THEM
Our suggestions for them include eating a Mediterranean diet packed with lots of lovely fish, vegetables and olive oil to reduce joint inflammation.
Staying hydrated and maintaining a healthy weight could help them too. Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) could also ease their symptoms.
ADJUST THE STRENGTH OF YOUR HUGS
Affection is obviously an important part of any relationship – friendly or romantic. However if they are suffering from joint pain, tight hugs can hurt. Be aware and check in before touching them.
ENCOURAGE HER TO SEE A PHYSIO
Suggest they take themselves to a physiotherapy session, where a trained pro can help get things working again as they should.
Remind them to check out their benefits package at work. Lots of employers offer money back off these kinds of things.
SAY NO TO A MASSAGE REQUEST
If your partner asks for a massage for sore joints, gently say no – if you don’t know exactly what you’re doing, you could end up making things worse.
Refer to the point above and encourage them to get booked in ASAP with a local expert.
SUGGEST A SUPPLEMENT
Vitamin D, calcium, magnesium, potassium and zinc supplements, or a good multivitamin, may alleviate joint pain. Taking a plant remedy like Devil’s Claw or rubbing arnica gel onto affected areas may help too.
Regular exercise, particularly weight training, is a key tool for managing joint pain during the perimenopause and menopause.
Combining something you want to do (spend time together) along with something you need to do (exercise) can be a real game changer.
Partnering up to go to the gym or train in the park is also more likely to help you both stay motivated.
MAKE HER COMFY
t’s hard work feeling stiff as a board. Is there anything you can do to make them more physically comfortable?
It could be as simple as opening a window, running a bath, getting them a glass of water or letting them stretch out on the sofa.
If you’re worried about joint pain, you should see your GP who can discuss your symptoms in the context of the menopause.
If you'd like more information, we have put some further references below for you: