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10.18.22|Posted by Kirsty Lee

Managing the menopause

In this article, Specialist MSK Physiotherapist and Physiotherapy Development Lead Kirsty Lee explores the impact of the menopause, and how symptoms can improve with the right guidance and support.

What is the menopause?

From 'Meno' meaning menstrual and 'pause' meaning to stop, the menopause is the term for the permanent ending of menstruation. According to The Menopause Charity, the average age of menopause for women in the UK is 51, but 1 in 100 women can experience symptoms before the age of 40.

Every woman will go through menopause at some point in their life. Some transgender men, non-binary people and intersex people may also experience menopause.

There are two distinct stages to the menopause:

  • Perimenopause: this is the stage before the menopause and can start 7 to 10 years before your final menstruation. During this time, you may experience early signs of the menopause and still have your normal menstruation cycle.
  • Post-menopause: this is the time after your final menstrual period. The term post-menopausal can only be used retrospectively once 12 months have elapsed without menstruation.

Both stages affect everyone differently, and due to increased life expectancy, women can now live more than 30% of their lives 'post-menopause'.

What are the symptoms?

There are around 35 symptoms of the menopause. Some of these manifest internally, others externally. As these may be new to you, the prospect might be worrying but it’s important to remember they can vary from person to person, and that there are ways to manage their impact, both independently and with professional support.

External symptoms can include:

  • Hot flushes
  • Poor sleep
  • Muscular aches and pains

Internal symptoms can include:

  • Low mood
  • Irritability 
  • 'Brain fog' and concentration issues

Other symptoms include:

  • Weight gain
  • Psychological symptoms
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Headaches
  • Memory loss
  • Hair loss
  • Dizziness
  • Skin changes 

How does menopause cause back and joint pain?

The changes that occur during the menopause can sometimes cause joint pain. This most commonly affects areas such as the back, knees, shoulders, neck, elbows, or hands.

It can also result in longstanding injuries becoming more painful. Studies suggest that this is due to hormonal changes that occur during the menopause, particularly the decline in oestrogen.

Oestrogen is a hormone that helps reduce inflammation and maintain natural bone density. As your oestrogen levels decrease, your joints can become more inflamed and painful, meaning an increased risk of osteoporosis (thinning of the bone) and osteoarthritis. 

More recent research also shows that a decrease in oestrogen can affect muscle strength and tendon health, which can mean it might take longer for you to recover from an injury.

What can I do to help manage my pain?

Movement can be an effective tool for pain management during the menopause, providing it is managed appropriately and progressed slowly. 

Unfortunately, weight gain is also a common side effect of the menopause, and increased weight can have a detrimental effect on joint and muscle pain due to increased load. Therefore, weight management is another key factor in helping to relieve symptoms.

Natural remedies such as hot water bottles, ice packs, hot baths, relaxation techniques and mindfulness can also be a great help. You may benefit from seeking advice from a trained professional such as a physiotherapist to help guide you on the pain management techniques that will work best for you.

How can physiotherapy help?

There are many ways in which physiotherapy can be helpful during the menopause. First of all, a physiotherapist will listen to your main concerns and symptoms to create realistic and patient-centred goals.

They will perform an assessment and create a treatment plan; this may consist of pain management advice, education, work and daily activity advice, and exercises. 

There are different forms of exercise that can be helpful during the menopause. As well as helping with pain, it can help combat a lot of other symptoms associated with the menopause.

An effective ‘menopause friendly’ programme should consist of endurance exercise (aerobic), strength/resistance exercises, and balance exercises. Your physiotherapist will create an individualised plan tailored to you to meet your specific goals, so you can explore areas of interest and focus on the areas that are most problematic for you.

Resistance training and higher impact activities have also been found to help improve bone density, however due to the intensity this needs to be closely monitored.

At Ascenti, our Pelvic Health specialists can help you manage symptoms of the menopause.

You can book in at one of our clinics or speak to a trained clinician via video call as part of our online service. Book an appointment online here or call our contact centre on 0330 678 0850.

Get in touch

Call our central booking line on - 0330 678 0850