When the menopause becomes a pain: menopausal arthralgia

As any woman of a certain age already knows, the menopause brings a plethora of issues, none of them welcome. Hot flushes and night sweats. Irregular periods and a loss of libido. Mood swings, dryness, weight gain, bloating, irritability and anxiety. In extreme cases, even gum problems, panic disorder, dizziness and irregular heartbeat.

However, there’s one particular symptom of the menopause that tends to get lost in the mass of maladies: menopausal arthralgia.

What is menopausal arthralgia?

Commonly known as ‘menopausal joint pain’, menopausal arthralgia occurs when the menopause triggers swollen, stiff or painful joints – usually the back, hips and knees, but it can also flare up amongst the extremities, such as the neck, shoulders, jaw and elbows.

Medical experts are still struggling to pinpoint the exact causes of this malady, but they’re in general agreement that the reduction of oestrogen – which has been proven to keep the inflammation of joints down – plays a major part.

The symptoms can change from woman to woman: some experience shooting pains down the arms, legs and back. Others experience stiffness in the affected areas in the morning, or swelling at the end of the day. In extreme cases, as women try to manage the pain by over-relying on other areas of the body, it can lead to weight gain, depression and even isolation.

What can you do to fend off menopausal arthralgia?

As with all forms of arthritis, there is no sure-fire cure – it’s one of the facts of life when it comes to the ageing process. However, there are many steps one can take to make the transition into post-menopausal life as smooth as possible, and the first one is a no-brainer: consult your doctor and spell out everything you’re currently experiencing.

When you know exactly what the problem areas are, you can then counter them with a targeted exercise plan. Obviously, you’ll be looking for a low-impact regime that’ll keep your joints flexible and strong, and swimming, tai chi and yoga are excellent activities for this purpose. Complimentary therapy such as osteopathy could help, too.

It goes without saying that achieving and maintaining a healthy body weight is key – after all, the heavier you are, the more strain you put on your joints. It’s also very important to start reducing your intake of carbs and sugar, as chronic inflammation of the joints can be caused by a diet that’s top-heavy with refined carbohydrates and sugars and low in essential fatty acids.

Replace the artificially sweet treats with fruits bursting with natural anti-inflammatories, such as blueberries, cherries and blackberries, and supplement your diet with Vitamin D, Omega 3 and multivitamins.

Finally, it makes sense to manage your stress levels. Although keeping calm seems a lofty goal when our bodies seem to be acting of their own accord, it’s a proven fact that elevated stress releases amounts of cortisol, which works as an inflammatory agent and makes matters worse.

Remember: you’re not alone in this, and it happens to all women.