Is your joint pain standing in the way of your regular daily activities? Thinking of changing your lifestyle so that you can avoid doing things that cause you pain again and again?
Ever paused to think about the reasons behind your joint pain?
One of them could be menopause.
Menopause is a natural part of ageing that occurs when a woman's ovaries stop producing eggs and oestrogen levels decline. Globally, the average age of menopause is 51 years. This transition can bring about a range of physical and emotional symptoms, including hot flashes, mood swings, and sleep disturbances. One symptom that is often overlooked, however, is joint pain.
So, what causes menopause joint pain?
As a woman nears menopausal age, the release of the hormones, oestrogen and progesterone by the ovaries, starts fluctuating. And, hence, these hormones get imbalanced.
Oestrogen influences reproductive organ development, bone, and joint health, cardiovascular system, metabolism, and behaviour.
During menopause, ovulation becomes irregular. The production of oestrogen and progesterone also decreases and causes most of the symptoms of menopause, including joint pain, osteopenia, osteoporosis, and osteoarthritis.
As oestrogen levels decline during menopause, the body's production of collagen may also decrease. Collagen is a protein that helps to keep the joints lubricated and flexible, so its decline can lead to joint stiffness and pain.
In addition to the decline in collagen, menopause can also lead to weight gain, which can put additional strain on the joints and contribute to joint pain.
Calcium, Vitamin D, and steroid hormones such as oestrogen are critical for bone and joint health. Oestrogen controls bone cell health and regulates new bone cells (osteophyte) formation. It prevents the excessive breakdown of bone cells and thereby preserves bone health. If bones are healthy, joints are also healthy.
Joint pains start with osteopenia, a condition where bone density is decreased and is a precursor to osteoporosis and osteoarthritis.
Osteoporosis, commonly known as brittle bone disease, is a condition where the bones become thin and fragile and are easily prone to fracture with minor impact. Osteoporosis causes body pain and weakness.
Osteoarthritis is caused by degeneration in joints when the cartilage, which acts as a cushion at the ends of the bones, wears off. The connective tissue holding the joint together starts deteriorating. The joint lining also gets inflamed. Osteoarthritis is a significant cause of joint pain during and after menopause.
Oestrogen is one of the factors that help in preserving and maintaining bone mass. As oestrogen production decreases with menopause, women lose bone mass, leading to osteoporosis and osteoarthritis.
An average of 25% of bone mass is lost between menopause and the age of 60 due to the depletion in oestrogen levels.
Recurrence of pain in joints and bones with a history of a previous injury can happen during menopause. Oestrogen protects the woman's body from inflammations. As the oestrogen levels decrease during menopause, the possibility for inflammation increases, and so do joint pains.
The joints that are prone to pain and osteoarthritis after menopause are
Along with joint pain, women also experience a series of symptoms classified as Fibromyalgia, a chronic pain condition with symptoms of pain, fatigue, and vaginal dryness.
Here are some common investigations and tests to check bone and joint health
Joint pains affect the mobility and functional ability of a woman. It also affects her mental capabilities and increases her vulnerability.
Stress during menopause increases pain intensity and hinders the independent, demanding, active life of a woman going through menopause. Osteoporosis and osteoarthritis increase the chances of fracture and may lead to permanent injury or damage, confining her life or limiting her activities.
Hence joint pains during menopause are considered a serious health problem. Prevention, monitoring, and managing joint pains help a woman to lead a flexible, mobile and agile life.
Ayurveda uses herbs to manage pain. It is effective in reducing pain and improving mobility. Some of the commonly used herbs are
Moringa is a plant native to the sub-Himalayan regions of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan. Commonly known as the "drumstick tree," "horseradish tree," or "ben oil tree", Moringa has long been used in traditional medicine for its medicinal properties, and also grown for its highly nutritious leaves, which are rich in vitamins, minerals, and amino acids.
Research shows that this herb has anti-inflammatory properties, which helps reduce joint pain. This herb is used for internal use, and the paste of the leaves can also be applied to painful areas.
Shallaki is the common name for Boswellia serrata, a tree native to India and the Middle East. The tree produces a resin used in traditional medicine for centuries. The resin, also known as boswellia or frankincense, has been used to treat various conditions, including inflammatory diseases such as arthritis and asthma.
Shallaki is used as a herbal supplement to treat joint pain and inflammation. Some studies suggest that it effectively reduces joint pain and swelling in people with osteoarthritis. It is also known to improve the growth of bone and cartilage.
Castor oil is a vegetable oil derived from the castor plant's seeds (Ricinus communis). It has been used for centuries in Ayurveda for various purposes, including treatment of joint pain and inflammation. Both the leaves of the castor plant and oil are used to reduce pain and stiffness of joints, especially lower back pain and knee pain.
Punarnava (Boerhavia diffusa) is a tiny shrub native to India and has been used in traditional Ayurvedic medicine for centuries. It is sometimes used as a herbal supplement for treating joint pain, swelling and inflammation due to its anti-inflammatory properties. It is used in the form of supplements as well as in diet.
Guduchi (Tinospora cordifolia) is a plant that is native to India and has been in the books of Ayurveda for centuries now. It is sometimes referred to as "Amrita," which means "nectar of immortality" in Sanskrit. Guduchi is believed to have several medicinal properties, including immune-boosting, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant effects.
Guduchi is used as a herbal supplement for a variety of health purposes, including the treatment of joint pain and inflammation.
Guggulu (Commiphora wightii) is a plant that is native to India and is traditional Ayurvedic medicine. It is the resin produced by the plant that is used medicinally. Guggulu is believed to have many medicinal properties, including anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects.
Guggulu is used as a herbal supplement for various health purposes, including the treatment of joint pain and inflammation, weight loss, and skin conditions. It is usually in combination with other herbs like Guduchi and Moringa.
Asthishrinkala (Cissus quadrangularis), also known as veldt grape or devil's backbone, is a plant that is native to India and Sri Lanka. Asthishrinkala has been used in traditional Ayurvedic medicine for a variety of purposes, including as a treatment for fractures and injuries, and as a pain reliever. It is also believed to have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
Devadaru (Cedrus deodara) is a species of a cedar tree that is native to the Himalayas and is commonly found in India, Nepal, and Pakistan. It is also known as "deodar," "Himalayan cedar," or "god's tree." Devadaru has been used in traditional medicine for various purposes, including the treatment of joint pain due to its anti-inflammatory properties. Its bark is used to reduce pain, especially during winter.
Bala (Sida cordifolia) is a tiny shrub native to India and is an inevitable Ayurvedic medicine for pain management. It is used as a herbal supplement to treat joint pain and inflammation. It is used in the preparation of ayurvedic bone tonic and oils.
Rasna (Pluchea lanceolata) is a herb native to India and has been used in traditional Ayurvedic medicine for centuries. It is used for the treatment of joint pain and inflammation, as well as various other health conditions. This herb is widely used in the preparation of decoction and tablets.
Weight management with a healthy BMI and a wholesome, nutritious diet help in healthy ageing and happy menopause. Here are a few diet tips
Try the following to relieve your joint pain from the comfort of your home.
Accepting and understanding menopause is the key to preventing and managing joint pain after menopause.
Usually, for women who care for their health diligently, joint pain associated with menopause slowly reduces as hormones stabilise. Joint pain-free menopause depends on the woman's constitution, profession, lifestyle, environment, climate, general health, stress levels, diet, exercise, etc.
The current lifestyle of a woman demands an active life after menopause, usually living alone or with an ageing spouse. Many women are involved in other activities, like demanding careers, hobbies, interests, social service, travel, care for parents, babysitting grandchildren, and much more. All these are possible if a woman has a healthy body and a happy mind. She has to be flexible and mobile to enjoy a relaxed, healthy post-menopausal life the way she wants.
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In healthy women and women who care for their health diligently, joint pain associated with menopause slowly reduces as hormones stabilise.
Vitamin D, Vitamin B12, Vitamin C, Calcium, Magnesium, Omega 3 fatty acids, natural anti-inflammatory herbs like turmeric, dry ginger, Rāsna, Dasamoola, etc., and probiotics are the supplements that help in joint pain. These can either be included in food and beverages or taken as prescribed medicines under the strict supervision of a doctor. Overdose of the supplements may lead to toxicity symptoms, and hence regular medical monitoring is always advisable while taking supplements.