Painful, achy joints primarily in the knees, hips and shoulders is a very common complaint after menopause. Estrogen binds directly to estrogen receptors on tissues in the joints. (Yes, estrogen receptors are everywhere!) The presence of estrogen is thought to have a protective effect in the joints.
Is this normal?
Yep. Given that estrogen levels fall significantly after menopause, it makes sense that joint pain and stiffness increase.
What can you do?
Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. Switch to low-impact exercise (such as biking, swimming, or yoga). And did you know that women who take estrogen after menopause report significantly less joint pain?
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What’s the deal with painful joints during menopause?
Stiffness, swelling, shooting pains, a burning sensation after exercise. Yes, painful, achey joints (especially in your knees, hips, and shoulder) are a part of aging, but they’re also tied to menopause and are a very common complaint.
Why is this happening?
One word: estrogen. Okay, more words now. Estrogen binds directly to estrogen receptors on tissues in your joints, and the presence of estrogen in your joints is thought to have a protective effect. As estrogen drops, your joints are less protected.
What can I expect?
Knees, hips, and shoulders are the most common places people complain about, but your neck, jaw, elbows, wrists, and even fingers can be affected. This pain is usually the worst in the morning. As you move around throughout the day and your joints loosen, it subsides. Joint pain is often accompanied by stiffness, but you may experience shooting pains or burning as well.
The connection between estrogen and the tissue in your joints (and the fact that your estrogen drops significantly during menopause) is there, and if you’re experiencing this, you’re not alone.
Uh, okay. What can I do?
One of the most important things you can do is stay active. But, if you’re used to high-impact activities like running, you may want to switch to workouts that have less of an impact on your joints, like biking, swimming, or yoga. Experiment to find out what feels best and what works for you. Drink lots and lots of water. And, try to eat foods with anti-inflammatory properties like fruits, vegetables, and legumes.
You can also boost your estrogen levels to protect your joints. Many women have reported significantly less joint pain after taking estrogen in multiple large studies.