This week goes out to one of my favourite Age Sisters, Gail, who asked me to write about the association between menopause and joint pain. I have to be honest - these are two things that I had never linked together. Intrigued, I set out to find out more about the pain and menopause connection.
When I searched through the research, what I found was a collection of studies about something called “menopausal arthralgia”. This phenomenon is thought to occur around the time of menopause and may or may not relate to a common condition of aging, osteoarthritis.
Many studies have found a significant change in joint pain and stiffness when comparing pre-menopausal and post-menopausal women; regular pain and stiffness seems to be more severe during and after menopause. In fact, in one of the most comprehensive studies done on joint pain and menopause, post-menopausal women were twice as likely to report joint pain and stiffness as premenopausal women. Reported levels of pain seemed to be the very worst in women who had surgical menopause (caused by the removal of a woman’s ovaries).
So why does joint pain get worse in the menopausal transition and beyond? Although a definitive cause has yet to be determined, most researchers think that pain occurs because of the sudden drop in estrogen. Estrogen is believed to have a role in reducing pain signals in the spinal cord and may additionally have an anti-inflammatory role within the musculoskeletal system. 
Joint pain also seems to be worse and more frequent those who are overweight. Women with a high Body Mass Index (a measure of body size) who participated in a Nigerian study, were found to have higher levels of neck/shoulder pain, lower back pain, and lower body pain than their healthy-weight counterparts.
Other research has uncovered the idea that psychological and sociological factors may also play a role. For example, in one study higher pain levels were found to be associated with those with “negative mood” and those struggling with unemployment (although these were simply noted as correlations).
What’s an over-50 gal to do about her achy joints? Unfortunately, there’s currently no standardized treatment for menopausal arthralgia, but here is a selection of recommendations from the research that may help you to manage menopausal joint pain:
Having an achy body can happen at any time of life but seems to become more common with age. Like many age-related changes, achy joints after 50 doesn’t have to be inevitable.
After ruling out other causes of your pain (again, please see your doctor), considering a change in lifestyle may be the ticket. We know that those (of any age) who exercise regularly report less pain overall. So, here’s to more movement and less creaking 😊.
Your sister in health,
 Magliano, M. (2010). Menopausal arthralgia: Fact or fiction. Maturitas, 67(1), 29–33.
 Ogwumike, O. O., Adeniyi, A. F., & Orogbemi, O. O. (2015). Musculoskeletal pain among postmenopausal women in Nigeria: Association with overall and central obesity. Hong Kong Physiotherapy Journal: Official Publication Of The Hong Kong Physiotherapy Association Limited = Wu Li Chih Liao, 34, 41–46.
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