Menopause & aches and pains

 

Around the time of menopause, many women notice an increase in aches and pains in their joints and muscles. These can be related to menopause itself, or to other medical conditions that become more common as we age.

Use this guide to find out more, and speak to your doctor if you need further support.

ACHES AND PAINS DEFINITION

This group of symptoms is very broad, and can include pain, discomfort and stiffness in the joints or muscles of almost any part of the body.

Other types of pain can also be more common around the time of menopause. You can find more information in our articles on Headaches if you are experiencing these.

If you are spending your days feeling frustrated with your menopause symptoms… download Stella.

HOW LIKELY ARE ACHES AND PAINS DURING MENOPAUSE?

  • They are very common
  • One study of more than 8,000 women around menopause found that over 60% had muscle and joint aches
  • Of these, just over 15% were rated as severe or very severe

Read more about the stages of menopause.

What makes aches and pains worse?

Weight gain & BMI in the obese range (30+)

Reduced muscle mass

Mood changes, including depression

Disturbed sleep

HOW CAN YOU MINIMALISE ACHES AND PAINS?

It really does depend on the cause of your aches and pains. If you have aches and pains that are persistent or severe, talk to your doctor, as many are treatable.

If your aches and pains are put down to menopause rather than any condition in particular, these things will help:

1. Healthy lifestyle. It really can improve many kinds of aches and pains. This includes taking up exercise, such cardio and strength training, maintaining a healthy weight and stopping smoking, among others.

2. Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT). Some women may find HRT helpful in reducing the aches and pains associated with menopause. HRT can also improve symptoms that may contribute to chronic pain including mood changes, loss of muscle mass and poor sleep. However, HRT is not suitable for everyone and there is limited evidence that it helps for general aches and pains alone.

Read more about the HRT debate.

Aches and pains & menopause

The ‘female’ hormone oestrogen has many different effects on the body, some of which can be beneficial for the muscles and joints.

This hormone has an anti-inflammatory effect. It is a mild immunosuppression (which can ease symptoms of autoimmune conditions like rheumatoid arthritis). 

It also reduces bone turnover (which slows the progress of osteoarthritis) and reduces pain (by changing the way pain signals travel to the brain).

It does an awful lot for us!

However, your body begins to produce a much lower level of oestrogen once you reach menopause. This means that you lose many of the beneficial effects of oestrogen and may begin to experience aches and pains that you didn’t previously.

If you already have a condition that is associated with chronic pain – including arthritis, back pain or fibromyalgia – you may notice that your pain levels increase around this time due to this hormonal change.

Similarly, conditions that cause aches and pains tend to start around the age of menopause. One of the most common of these is arthritis, although many different illnesses can be associated with this wide range of symptoms.

If you notice new aches or pains which persist, talk to your doctor to get them diagnosed and treated correctly.

See your doctor if you have any aches or pains in your muscles or joints that persist, or if you are worried.

You should see a doctor urgently if you have: severe pain, fever, problems moving or putting weight onto the affected area, chest pain, shortness of breath, swelling or redness of the arm or leg, dizziness, fainting or any other symptoms of concern.

Since downloading Stella, I’ve started to exercise more and find time for it. I’ve really noticed a difference in how I am feeling.”

Mary

DISCOVER MORE

Managing muscle pain and spasms during menopause. Read more

Why hormonal changes are making your body ache. Read more

The hormone replacement therapy (HRT) debate. Read more

WHAT RELIEF FOR ACHES AND PAINS IS AVAILABLE?

Download Stella for personalised cognitive behaviour therapy to help manage your symptoms during menopause

App Store Download button

Shaw G, 2019, The Link Between Menopause and Chronic Pain, WebMD, accessed 3rd March 2021  https://www.webmd.com/menopause/features/menopause-chronic-pain-link 

NHS, 2018, Menopause – Symptoms, accessed 3rd March 2021 www.nhs.uk/conditions/menopause/symptoms/

 Whelan C, 2020, Does Menopause Cause Pain, Healthline, accessed 3rd March 2021 https://www.healthline.com/health/menopause/pain#:~:text=Menopause%20may%20cause%20joint%20pain,estrogen%20helps%20to%20reduce%20inflammation.

Szoeke CE, Cicuttini FM, Guthrie JR, Dennerstein L. The relationship of reports of aches and joint pains to the menopausal transition: a longitudinal study. Climacteric, 11:1, 55-62 https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/13697130701746006 

Blumel JE et al., Menopause could be involved in the pathogenesis of muscle and joint aches in mid-aged women. Maturitas, Volume 75, Issue 1, May 2013, Pages 94-100 https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0378512213000571 

Watt F, Musculoskeletal pain and menopause, Post Reproductive Health. 2018;24(1):34-43. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/2053369118757537 

van Hecke O, Torrance N, Smith BH. Chronic pain epidemiology – where do lifestyle factors fit in?. Br J Pain. 2013;7(4):209-217. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4590163/ 

Hall-Flavin DK, 2019, Pain and depression: is there a link?, accessed 3rd March 2021 https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/depression/expert-answers/pain-and-depression/faq-20057823 

Magliano M, Menopausal arthralgia: Fact or fiction. Maturitas. 2010 Sep;67(1):29-33 https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20537472/