Helen Seymour is in peri-menopause, or at least she thinks she is. In her weekly column we follow her on her journey towards the menopause, learning as she does all about the big M.
My friend Suzanne asked me to write about joint pain in menopause. Suzanne and I were in school together. She is one of the funniest, nicest, kindest girls I know. When we were in second year, she accidentally burnt her entire fringe off in science class, as she examined an experiment too closely over a Bunsen burner. Best science class ever. The smell of the burnt hair, the screams, the singed remains of the fringe, the shocked face of our ridiculously handsome science teacher.
Anyway, joint pain. This is a very common symptom of menopause. Joints which experience high impact such as the hips and knees tend to be most affected, but hands, fingers and ankles can also experience serious pain, and here’s why.
Related: The average woman gains 5-7 pounds during menopause
Oestrogen. WHAT? Oh, come on Helen, not oestrogen AGAIN? It can’t be responsible for this as well? Sadly, yes. Who knew one little hormone could do so much? We only realise the power of this baby when it’s taken away. Because on top of the gazillion other magnificent things oestrogen does, it also minimalizes swelling around the joints. And so, as we reach menopause and our oestrogen drops, the joint aches creep in.
Furthermore, in a separate but related function, oestrogen plays a powerful role in regulating fluid levels in your body, so as your oestrogen falls away, you may find your body is unable to retain water efficiently. This means you become dehydrated. And when you are dehydrated you get a build-up of uric acid which can cause inflammation in your joints.
HRT is an obvious solution. Replace the oestrogen we are losing and we’re back on track. But HRT is not necessarily an option for everyone, so here are a few other highly effective alternative remedies.
Related: The menopause Diaries: HRT and the big 'C'
Remedies to try
WATER – Sounds too easy to be true, but it works. Drink at least 2 Litres of filtered still water every day. Sparkling does not hydrate. It must be still and ideally filtered. If you are experiencing joint pains, start this now.
TART CHERRY JUICE – This is recommended for any kind of joint inflammation. I personally recommend Biona Organic Tart Cherry Juice or Cherry Active Concentrate, both of which you can get from “Nourish” Health Store or online. Again, if you are experiencing joint pain, start this now, and drink it daily.
TUMERIC – Wonderful at reducing inflammation. Buy the organic powdered Turmeric or fresh root Turmeric, and brew up a powerful healing tea. Pour 1.5 litres of filtered water into a pot. Slice up fresh ginger, add your turmeric, and two cinnamon sticks and bring to the boil. Turn down and simmer for a further 20 minutes to release the powerful properties of both the turmeric and the ginger. Add honey and lemon to taste. You can make a big batch of this, and keep it in the fridge to heat when you want it.
CHERRY & TUMERIC SUPPLEMENTS – Solgar has an excellent Cherry Turmeric Supplement. There are also a wide range of other cherry supplements on the market that you can buy in-store or online. I personally would go to a smaller health store such as “Nourish” or “Down to Earth”, which stock a wide range of specialist brands as opposed to a large chain who mass produce products all under their one “own brand” name. The smaller stores curate the best of what’s on offer, and you’re not going to get that quality with the large chains.
DEVIL’S CLAW – Sounds a bit Harry Potter, but this homoeopathic remedy has a similar effect to that of steroids, without the associated side effects. The herb is gentle to the body and can take up to 4 weeks to work its way into the body, so if you decide to try this, give it at least a month to see will it work for you. A. Vogel have an excellent Devil’s Claw called “Altrosan” which will be available at all good health stores, and can also be ordered online.
EXERCISE – If you’re a runner, STOP. High impact exercise such as jogging can exacerbate the problem. It is however very important to keep your joints flexible and exercise such as Yoga, Swimming and Pilates are ideal.
STRESS– Stress releases high quantities of the hormone cortisol, which works as an inflammatory agent, and will make your joint pain worse, so reduce your stress.
WEIGHT – Watch your weight. For every pound you are overweight it adds five pounds of pressure to your knees. Managing weight in menopause is hard, but important.
MAGNESIUM – Finally, nothing eases out aches and pains like Magnesium. Soak in an Epsom Salts bath at least once a week, and take a daily Magnesium supplement.
Cherry pick from the list above, or do it all. And feel better.
Related: The dreaded dryness down under