Menopause and Joint Pain
Falling estrogen levels during the menopause transition can lead to arthralgia, or joint pain, which can affect all areas of your life. Learn why more than half of women in peri- or post-menopause experience joint pain and what you can do about it.
How menopause can lead to joint pain
Estrogen provides more health benefits than many people realize. Among other things, it:
- Protects your heart by helping to regulate blood pressure, cholesterol,
- Gives your skin its plumpness and elasticity, and hair its thickness and shine,
- Helps regulate blood flow, serotonin levels, and the release of endorphins in your brain.
Estrogen also fights inflammation and helps protect your bones from becoming brittle and your muscles from atrophy. Some experts think that lower estrogen levels may also cause synovial fluid, which lubricates the joints, to dry up.
Progesterone and testosterone levels also decline during menopause, making it more difficult to gain back lost muscle mass. The weakening and loss of supportive muscle can place strain on joints, exacerbating pain and soreness.
A common place to experience joint pain during menopause is the knee joint. This is because your thigh muscles lose strength to a greater degree than other muscle groups.
Falling estrogen levels during the menopause transition can lead to arthralgia, or joint pain, which can affect all areas of your life.
(This image is from Shutterstock.)
Common sites of menopause-related joint pain
While you can experience joint pain and stiffness anywhere in your body, some common locations are:
- Neck and shoulders
- Spine (especially lower back)
It can be difficult to differentiate menopause-related joint pain from arthritis, but if it accompanies changes in your period, it might be hormone-related.
How can I find menopausal joint pain relief?
People find relief from menopause-related joint pain and stiffness in several ways, including:
- Over-the-counter drugs such as ibuprofen, Motrin, Aleve, and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications. Topical cream and gels can also help relieve sore joints and relax the surrounding muscles.
- Prescription medications, which may come in the form of hormone therapy to replace the lost estrogen that kept your joints supple. Your doctor may suggest estrogen-only, progesterone (progestin)-only, a combination of the two hormones, or hormones plus another medication. Hormone therapy can also help protect against osteoporosis.
- Non-pharmacological remedies to relax, improve strength and flexibility, and reduce inflammation. Examples of these are:
- Aerobic exercise and resistance training
- Hot and cold compresses
- Dietary supplements like turmeric and glucosamine
Speak with your doctor to determine what options may be most suitable for your overall health needs and personal preferences.