Menopause is comprised of three phases: perimenopause, menopause, and postmenopause. Because of the slower production of hormones by the ovaries during these three stages, women commonly experience mood swings, hot flashes, lower sex drive, and trouble sleeping, but did you know that the decrease in these hormones can also cause spine and joint pain such as lower back pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, and arthralgia?
Lower back pain
As adults, lower back pain is a common ailment, affecting almost 31 million Americans, according to the American Chiropractic Association. Numerous studies have been done internationally on this specific topic. Overwhelmingly they have found that almost half of women going through menopause experience an increase in lower back pain. One contributing factor to the increase in lower back pain could be an increased body mass index (BMI), which commonly affects women during this stage of life. However, this is not the only contributing factor. The decrease in hormones combined with the increase of anxiety and stress is a perfect storm for muscle tension and inflammation. Also, as you get older you may experience natural bone degeneration which, when combined with the increase of muscle tension, may result in an increase in low back pain.
If you start to experience low back pain during menopause, there are some things you can do to help alleviate the symptoms. The first line of defense would be to eat an anti-inflammatory diet and exercise regularly. Good forms of exercise would include low-impact exercises such as yoga, swimming or water exercises, and walking. By doing this alone, you can keep your BMI lower and decrease inflammation in your body. If you are still experiencing low back pain, try wearing a back brace, practice proper posture, and use other relief tips to decrease the pain.
Carpal tunnel syndrome
Carpal tunnel syndrome is a condition that affects the hand and arm, which can lead to numbness, tingling, and loss of strength. During menopause, women may be at a greater risk of developing carpal tunnel syndrome because of the hormonal changes occurring in their bodies. Due to the decrease in hormones and bone density, women’s wrist structures can become enlarged or the tunnel could narrow, causing pressure to the wrist nerve.
Arthralgia in menopause is sometimes referred to as menopause joint pain and mainly affects the neck, back, knees, and extremities, but can also affect the jaw, wrists, shoulders, and elbows. The female hormone estrogen keeps inflammation down. When a woman moves into the stages of menopause, the levels of estrogen begin to decline. The decrease in estrogen levels causes inflammation within the joint, causing sufferers to experience pain during movement or daily activities. One form of arthralgia we treat is facet joint arthralgia. This type of arthralgia is characterized by pain in the lower back that is worsened with extension and lateral rotation and may have some radiation into the hip or buttock, but not into the legs. Also, pain in your neck is worsened with side-to-side motion or by looking up. There may be some radiation into the head or shoulder, but not into the arms.
Usually menopause joint pain is associated with some degree of osteoporosis, which is caused by the declining levels of estrogen during the stages of menopause. Many women do not even realize they have developed osteoporosis until they feel pain from trauma to the weakened bones. This could lead to a variety of chronic pain problems such as a collapsed vertebrae, spinal deformities, and spinal degeneration.
While there are numerous treatments for women’s menopausal pain caused by lower back pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, and arthralgia, it’s important to maintain a proper weight, eat correctly, and try to avoid inflammatory foods. During the stages of menopause, there are several lifestyle changes that should occur to help lessen the affects of declining hormones. We work with a vast network of specialists and can help you find the treatments you may require outside of what we do such as hormone therapy and dietary and exercise guidance.