When women are asked about the symptoms they attribute to menopause, it is not surprising to find hot flashes and night sweats near the top of the list. However, in some midlife population surveys, more women reported aches and joint pain than any other symptom. And, for as many as 41% of women approaching menopause and 57% of women 2 years past menopause, those symptoms were described as significant.
Whether the cause is loss of estrogen, the aging process, or a combination of the two remains unclear. We do know that after menopause there is an increase in both severity and frequency of some kinds of arthritis. Researchers are examining how estrogen might play a role.
According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in five adults (46 million adults) have arthritis.
- Arthritis is a term that simply means “inflammation.” It is used to describe over 100 different joint diseases.
- Among these diseases are osteoarthritis, often called the “wear and tear” arthritis, and rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune disease in which the body attacks itself.
- Common to many different forms of arthritis are the complaints of pain, aching, stiffness and swelling.
Regardless of the type of arthritis, the following fundamental principles hold true and provide a good foundation for successful treatment options:
- First, make sure you see your healthcare provider. An early diagnosis can make a difference in outcome.
- Be your own advocate—stay fit and active. There are many special exercises designed to help keep joints strong and flexible (yoga, tai chi, etc).
- Health education plays a major role in disease and pain management, so keep informed.
- Maintaining a healthy weight not only reduces the risk of developing arthritis in the first place, but it can decrease the progression of the disease in the lumbar spine and weight-bearing joints.
- Protect your joints by avoiding repetitive strain (tennis elbow, pitcher’s shoulder, etc).
- Specific treatment options vary based on the specific diagnosis, so be sure to consult with your healthcare provider.