Joint Pain: What's causing it & tips to ease it


Eileen Durward
@EileenDurward
Ask Eileen


03 September 2018

Read the full video transcript below

Today's topic

Hello, and welcome to my weekly video blog. And today on A.Vogel Talks Menopause, I'm going to be talking about joint health. Now, one of the top questions that I get asked on an ongoing basis, "Is joint pain part of the menopause? Can the menopause cause joint pain?" And the answer is definitely yes.  

So what we've decided to do is to have a joint pain month. There are so many different aspects to this that I really can't cover it all in a space of about 10 minutes. So today, we're going to look at why joint pain can happen in the menopause. And in the following weeks, I'm going to give you tips on things that you can do to help yourself and how to look after your joints well in the menopause

Menopause and joint pain

So, what exactly happens here? Very often, it's to do with falling oestrogen affecting the stability and the hydration of the joints. And that over time will then trigger joint pain, either as in a sort of grinding pain, if you like, especially first thing in the morning, you might find that your joints are really, really stiff, or else the joints will tend to get very inflamed.  

The problem is that a lot of women will go to the doctor when this starts to appear and ask for tests, and because it's not sort of real arthritis, if you like, because it's the menopause that's causing it, very often, these tests will come back negative, and the doctor will tell you that everything's fine. And you are going, "No, it's not. I'm in a lot of pain on a regular basis."  

And very often, all that you will be offered is pain relievers of some kind, which at the end of the day isn't going to sort anything. And if your joints get worse, then it just means you're going to end up taking more and more painkillers. The problem with this type of joint pain in the menopause is that it can strike any joint at all. 

What areas of the body are affected by joint pain?

There doesn't seem to be any particular rhyme or reason for some women. It can be the fingers, it can be the wrists, the elbows, it can be the neck, the shoulders, the back, the hips or the knees, even down to the toes. It can be one single joint up to every single joint in your body feeling like it's burning and on fire, so there's a huge range of symptoms and also where in the body that this can actually strike. 

Oestrogen and joint pain

Now, what happens mainly once the oestrogen falls, it tends to shrink the joints, and that will then affect the cartilage which is the sort of buffer between the joints, the ligaments, and the tendons. Ligaments and tendons join muscle to bone and bone to bone. 

And they're a bit like elastic bands, so they're very stretchy, they're very elastic and that allows you, if you're looking at my elbow joint, these tendons and ligaments allow me to move my joint in all sorts of different ranges of movement. If these tendons and ligaments start to tighten up, which tends to happen when your oestrogen falls, then your range of movement decreases.  

The joints can then start to rub on each other because the cartilage decreases as well. And this is what ends up giving you the pain and eventually, the inflammation. So that's the kind of broad picture of what's happening when you get joint pain in the menopause.

Other causes of joint pain during menopause

The problem here is that there can be other reasons as well that may be part of the menopause but could also be due to other factors.  

Age

So we've got age, you know, and unfortunately, for most of us who're going through the menopause, we're starting to creep into that sort of middle-age group, and that can just be wear and tear that the joints are starting to cause problems.

Stress

It can be stress, and we know that stress, ongoing stress, creates acidic chemicals, and these can end up burning and irritating the joint.  

Poor diet

If you've had a poor diet for a long time, that tends to turn the body into an acidic state, and that can end up irritating and damaging the joints, too.

Dehydration

We've got dehydration. Now, for those of you that have been watching for a while, you know that this is the big one.  Falling oestrogen affects the hydration of the body generally. And again, if your joints start to dehydrate, these tendons and ligaments will start to stiffen up, and that can be a major problem here as well.

Posture

We've got things like posture, and again, I've talked about this before. A lot of us now have sedentary jobs. We're at desks, and I know myself that my posture can end up being very bad, and that will, if I'm not careful, give me a lot of shoulder and neck pain.  

So the way that we behave and move on a daily basis can contribute to these joints that are already in a weakened state.

Weight

Unfortunately too, we put on weight during the menopause, or some of us do, and that can hinder some of the big weight-bearing joints which would be things like your hips, and your knees, and your ankles.  

So these can be affected, even putting on a few extra pounds can be enough just to put extra pressure on these joints that are a little bit instable at the moment.

Lack of exercise

And lack of exercise, you know, if we're going through the menopause, if we're tired, if we're fatigued, if we're really, really busy with our lives, and we don't have time to exercise, then the joints can stiffen up naturally at that point as well.  

So as you can see, there are a huge number of reasons why your joints can start to deteriorate during the menopause, and it can be a combination of them. So have a look at your lifestyle, have a look at your diet, have a look at your exercise. Are there things you can do that will help to improve things? And that may show benefit in the joints, too.

Other things you can do to help reduce joint pain

Exercise more

Although exercising might be that the last thing you want to do when you feel achy and sore, there are some very good reasons to push yourself to get moving. Firstly: exercise will strengthen the muscles that support the joints making symptoms less likely. Secondly: exercise will help to control your weight.

The best types of exercise to do if your joints or muscles are sore are low-impact exercises which allow you to flex your joints without adding further stress such as water aerobics, yoga, swimming and (depending on which joints are affected) cycling.

Relax

Since stress is a common joint pain trigger, trying to reduce stress and relax more can be very beneficial to your joints. When feeling stressed try deep breathing to calm your nervous system or do something to take your mind of your stress – paint, bake, listen to music, read a book or soak in a hot bath with some Epsom salts (this is both relaxing for you and soothing for your joints).

Get a check up

I would recommend getting a check up with a Chiropractor or Osteopath, as they can detect if any joints are out of line and recommend exercises to help.

Correct your posture

The Alexander Technique can teach you how to hold your posture correctly and can be very effective at alleviating joint pain.

Is menopause joint pain permanent?

One of the things I'm asked on a very regular basis is, "If I get joint pain in the menopause, will it go afterwards?" This, unfortunately, is a million-dollar question because it will depend on the individual. For some women, joint pain is going to be a phase, it's going to be part of the menopause, but will disappear at some point, and everything will seem to go back to normal.  

For other people, if you allow the deterioration to continue, if you don't try and fix it, then the joints can deteriorate to the point where they're damaged, and then it's unlikely that things will resolve once you're through the menopause. So looking after your joints well now is going to pay dividends as you go through and come past the menopause.  

It's really important to look at the whole aspect here. I'm going to give you one tip today, which I would like you all to follow, just to see if it makes a difference by this time next week.

Can drinking water help joint pain?

Now, remember, I've talked about dehydration of the joints.  We know that this can be a huge influence on your joint health, on your movement, and on flexibility.

So make sure that you are drinking absolutely loads and loads of plain water every day. Tea and coffee don't count. It needs to be plain water over and above what you're already drinking.

Now, I know that loads of women will get back to me and say that their joints feel better after a week on extra water.  So please try it. Let me know how you get on.

Extra tip:

If your joints are sore or creaky first thing then ease off as they day goes on, it may mean that you are really dehydrated during the night, so make sure that you have a small glass of plain water about an hour before bed – this is really important if you are getting night sweats as these will dehydrate you further.

And next week, I'm going to be talking about the seven best supplements and remedies that you can take to help to strengthen and ease joint pain in the menopause. So I will see you next week.

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