Why joint pain during menopause
Menopause joint pain, medically known as “arthralgia,” occurs when the joints become swollen, stiff or painful during menopause. Also known as “menopausal arthritis,” menopause joint aches affect the back, knees, hips and extremities.
Menopause aching joints most often cause pain and soreness in the back, knee joints and hips. However, many women also experience pain throughout the other hundreds of joints in the body during menopause. Women may find that fingers and wrists become especially sore during menopause, particularly with repetitive motion. Some women may find that joint stiffness becomes worse in the morning, with swelling occurring around joints at the end of the day.
As a result of menopause joint pain, many women may find their range of joint motion – and thus their choice of activities – become limited. For many women, menopause aching joints can also make exercise painful. Movements like running, jumping or lifting can cause joint pain to worsen during menopause, as well. Women may experience shooting pains down the arms, legs or back, as well as heat within the area surrounding the joints, creating a “burning” sensation after motion stress. Because the body contains more than 350 joints, women may also experience symptoms of menopause joint pain throughout the body, including the jaw, shoulder, elbows and neck.
Symptoms of menopausal aching joints symptomDuring menopause, declines in estrogen can lead to changes in the brain’s levels of neurotransmitters – chemical messengers that regulate energy and mood. As levels of such neurotransmitters – such as dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine – become altered, mood changes occur. Anxiety often occurs as the body’s “fight or flight” reaction becomes activated, preparing the brain and body to respond to a crisis. Unfortunately, as these chemical changes take place, the brain and body often prepare for a crisis when there is no present threat. Other causes of anxiety can include trauma survival, generalized anxiety disorder, stress overload , and a host of other psychological and physical conditions.
Difficulty walking or running
High impact pain
Swelling around joints
Limited range of motion
Injuries and accidents
Finger and wrist pain
Pain that subsides with rest
Risks of Menopause Joint AchesAching joints can affect activity levels during menopause, due to pain that occurs with high-impact activities. When chronic, menopause joint pain can even lead to isolation and depression. In some cases, movements made to compensate for aching joints may also cause injuries. Menopause aching joints can also make exercise needed in midlife difficult, leading to weight gain, obesity and compromised cardiovascular health.
Causes of Menopause Joint Aches
Like many menopause symptoms, aching joints occur due to significant hormonal imbalances that take place during menopause, affecting the bones and joints throughout the body. Because estrogen plays a role in preventing inflammation throughout the body, estrogen deficiencies that occur in midlife can lead to inflamed, painful joints. Declining hormone levels also can cause midlife weight gain, particularly around the belly region, causing greater stress on the joints. Testosterone levels can also fluctuate during menopause, leading to muscle loss that also strains joints.
Hormonal changes in the body can also lead to a loss of bone density, as declining hormone levels prevent proper absorption of calcium and prevent new bone growth. This can lead to another symptom associated with hormonal imbalances – osteoporosis – further exacerbating joint problems during menopause.
Non-hormonal causes of joint aches can include injuries, genetics, bone diseases, cancer and metabolic conditions.
Treatment of Menopause Joint Aches
While the underlying cause of menopause joint aches is the hormonal imbalances that occur with age, self help measures may help treat joint pain temporarily, as well. Physical therapy, exercise, stretching, and muscle building can all help prevent joint aches during midlife. Ensuring that you receive plenty of Vitamin D and calcium as part of a balanced menopause diet can also help strengthen bones and ward of osteoporosis and its precursor, osteopenia. Over-the-counter or prescription painkillers, and hot baths can also help alleviate joint pain momentarily.
However, long-term resolution of menopause joint aches must address the underlying hormonal imbalances that cause joints to ache, swell and stiffen. Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) offers one option for women seeking to rebalance hormones during menopause, but its association with serious health risks of cancer, stroke and heart disease has made it a less popular choice in recent years.
Menopause Joint Aches FAQs
Q: When should I seek medical help for joint pain?
A: If you are experiencing joint pain as the result of an injury or accident, medical examinations can prevent worsening of joint problems. Any time that joint pain persists beyond three days, travels to other joints, or is accompanied by fever, redness, or unexplained weight loss, medical attention should be sought.