Are you waking up in the night feeling stiff and sore? Or perhaps when you get out of bed in the morning you feel about 100 years old?
Your muscles and joints just hurt. Everything feels strung tight and oh so tired. But you can’t sleep properly because you’re in pain. Talk about a vicious circle.
Menopause and muscle pain – yes they are linked. You haven’t suddenly aged 40 years overnight.
Muscle aches are caused by seesawing oestrogen and progesterone, as their levels wobble about and then drop off.
Progesterone has a calming effect on the body and mind, so when this starts to pop off everything gets tenser. This can go hand in hand with feeling more anxious.
Low oestrogen then opens the gateway for high levels of cortisol, the stress hormone that raises blood pressure and blood sugar. Shed loads of cortisol and scrappy amounts of oestrogen cause your muscles to tighten and get tired.
At the same time, women lose muscle mass after they hit 40. Female stem cells rely on oestrogen to repair and rebuild tissue, so as this hormone disappears, so do they.
Don’t worry, this is not a life sentence. There are ways you can break the cycle and free yourself from muscle tension in the menopause.
IS IT THE MENOPAUSE?
We’re guessing you’ve already gone through your mental checklist, trying to work out what’s causing your muscle pain?
Wonky hormones are probably to blame if you are stiff and sore during the menopause, but just make sure you have eliminated other possible culprits like stress, anxiety, past injuries, a lack of activity and bad posture.
HEAT IT UP & RUB IT BETTER
Try a heat pad or a hot bath with good old fashioned Epsom Salts. If you’re sitting at a desk all day, it may be worth investing in a wheat bag for your office drawers that you can warm in the microwave.
Other good ways to restore a healthy blood flow to your muscles and de-kink yourself include getting a massage. Work out those knots. It won’t just ease your physical tension and help to reduce pain, it should relax you too.
Feel stiffer than an ironing board? It’s time to put on some lycra (or loose clothing if that thought is too alarming) and slowly stretch yourself out.
Yoga can be a great help. But even if you don’t want to Downward Dog, a gentle regular stretching session is a fabulous way to lengthen and strengthen your muscles.
POP SOME VITAMIN D
Unless you live in the Maldives, it can be hard to get enough sunlight to power up vitamin D in your body.
Stock up by eating fish and dairy products. If that doesn’t work for you, you could always take a supplement. It might be a good idea to ask your GP for a blood test to see how your vitamin D levels are doing. Very high doses are only available on prescription - and that might be what your body needs.
SLEEP IT OFF
If you are having sleep issues then check out our suggestions on how to revamp your nightly routine and find a way to recharge your batteries (and muscles).
Joint pain? Support your body as you rest with a cushion between your knees to align your hips. Make sure your pillow cradles your neck and head properly.
You absolutely can maintain muscle mass during the menopause – and even build it up.
Weight training won’t just work out your muscles, keep you strong and give you energy. It will also help you keep your body fat stable and keep insulin sensitivity at bay, as muscle tissue soaks up blood glucose.
You don’t have to aim for arms like Arnie. And unless you are determined to eat copious amounts of protein and train intensively for hours every day, bulking up just won’t happen.
Find ways to regularly challenge your body by working with weights heavy for you. Get a routine worked out for you by a professional trainer. And then enjoy the results.
HINTS AND TIPS FOR THOSE WHO WANT TO SUPPORT SOMEONE THEY THINK MAY BE ENTERING OR IN MENOPAUSE
If their muscles are aching all the time it can be physically and mentally demanding. Try our helpful suggestions – you could ease their tension and get healthier together.
OUR ADVICE TO THEM
In terms of self-care, we’ve recommended that they stretch themselves out or enjoy a warm bath. Heat pads and wheat bags can also help ease their soreness.
They could also revamp their night-time routine to rest and recharge their muscles, sleeping with the right pillow and cushions to support their head and hips.
MAKE THEM COMFY
Is there anything you can do to make them more comfortable?
It could be as simple as running a bath, giving them a heat pad or letting them stretch out on the sofa. What do they need? Why don’t you ask them? Which leads us to point two...
OFFER THEM A MASSAGE
If your partner is struggling with menopausal muscle tension, why not offer her a massage to help melt the strain away?
For a simple back massage, ask them to lay on her front and stand by their head. Place your (oiled) hands at either side of their spine, and gently press, sliding them down towards their buttocks. Slide back up all the way to the neck, then out across the shoulders. Repeat.
CREATE A WEEKLY MEAL PLAN
It’s really important people with muscle tension get enough vitamin D from fish and dairy products in their diet.
Planning meals ahead is a good way to get an overview of what you’re eating and manage weight too, while shopping for the ingredients together and sharing the cooking means it’s not just down to them. You could even sign up for a joint cookery class to learn some new culinary skills.
SUGGEST A SUPPLEMENT
If they are not getting enough vitamin D from their diet alone, they could take a supplement.
Why not gently ask if they have tried anything like that?
Regular weight training exercise is a key way to maintain her muscles 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 can help you both stay motivated. Perhaps you could book a joint personal training session or spot each other as you lift?
If you’re worried about muscle tension, 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: