The Ins and Outs of Midlife Joint Pain

Joint pain in perimenopause

Joint pain is one of the common issues women face as they move through mid-life.

Some have even used the term ‘menopause arthritis’ to describe this sign because it can be very unpleasant making even simple movements unbearable.

The reason for this is that the hormone estrogen plays an important role in maintaining joint and bone health. It acts as an anti-inflammatory, minimising swelling in the joints. As you enter peri-menopause, from age 35 onwards, your estrogen levels decline, and eventually the obvious menopausal signs start to be experienced – hot flushes, night sweats, sleeplessness, and weight gain – and the development of swollen and painful joints is another very common sign.

Estrogen is important for regulating fluid levels in your body, and lower levels lead to dehydration which can cause uric acid levels to increase causing joint pain.

So what can we do about joint pain and swollen joints?

Prevention is always better, but the tips below will help even if you have experienced joint pains for many years.

1. Hormone Balance

Bringing back balance to your hormone levels is the best method as this addresses the root cause of the problem.

2. Diet

A diet rich in minerals and anti-inflammatory fruits and vegetables. Calcium is a key bone nutrient and estrogen is very important for calcium metabolism. For calcium to be properly absorbed it is important to have the right balance with magnesium. Leafy green vegetables, fruit, nuts and whole grains are important whole food sources.

“Life expectancy would grow by leaps and bounds if green vegetables smelled as good as bacon.” Doug Larsen, Newspaper Columnist.

The spice turmeric, which contains anti-inflammatory curcuminoids is well researched for relief of joint pain.

coloured vegetables, dietary news

3. Reducing body weight.

The more weight you carry the larger the stress and strain on your joints, especially back, hips and knees.

4. Reduce stress.

The body produces the hormone cortisol when under stress, whether it’s physical, mental or emotional stress. Cortisol is an inflammatory hormone which will make joints feel stiff, swollen and more painful. Try to reduce stress with a relaxing warm bath, a massage, or even acupuncture. In addition take time out to relax and de-stress, which is literally letting the cortisol levels drop off.

5. Low impact exercise.

Quote from Edward Stanley, Earl of Derby – 1873 – “Those who think they have not time for bodily exercise will sooner or later have to find time for illness.”

Swimming, yoga and Pilates are all good forms of exercise that help build muscle strength and keep joints mobile and healthy. Avoid high impact exercise such as jogging and aerobics.

One of the best forms of exercise is dance because it also helps build neural connections in the brain and protects against cognitive decline.

Low impact exercise Swimming

So there it is – balance your hormones and your life, eat well but watch your weight, and dance with loved ones.

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This is the time when menstruation is well and truly over, the ovaries have stopped producing high levels of sex hormones and for many ladies, perimenopause symptoms subside.

Estrogen has protective qualities and the diminished levels mean organs such as your brain, heart and bones become more vulnerable. It’s also a key lubricant so your lips may become drier, your joints less supple and your vagina might be drier. In addition, your thyroid, digestion, insulin, cortisol and weight may alter.

At this juncture, a woman might experience an increase in the signs of reduced estrogen but she should have a decrease of perimenopause symptoms. That said, some women will experience symptoms like hot flushes for years or even the rest of their lives.


Peri = ‘near’

Most females begin to experience the symptoms of perimenopause in their mid-forties. Your progesterone levels decline from your mid-30s but it’s generally from around 40 that the rest of your sex hormones begin to follow suit. 

Perimenopause is a different experience for every woman and some women may barely notice it. The first indicators are usually changes to the monthly cycle. This means that for some ladies, this can be accompanied by things like sore breasts, mood swings, weight gain around the belly, and fatigue as time goes on.

For those with symptoms it can be a challenging time physically, mentally and emotionally.

Importantly, perimenopause lasts – on average – four to 10 years. The transition is usually a gradual process and many women enter perimenopause without realising.