One of the things that creeps up on us as we hit menopause is that we can start to have trouble with our joints, and if this is you then these suggestions can help you avoid it getting worse.
Your joints, which link your bones together, are sensitive to heavy loads. Every pound on your frame puts 4 pounds of stress on your knees.
It also strains your back, hips, and feet. That causes wear and tear that can lead to damage, aches, and pain. Being overweight also triggers inflammation. That can make all your joints, including in your hands, stiff, painful, and swollen.
Losing any extra weight can only be helpful, so if it’s hormone related check your oestrogen load and try a diet that is both healthy for you and your bones.
‘Texting thumb’ is a real thing and not just for teenagers. Your tendons can get irritated and lock your thumb in a curled position.
Plus all that looking down at your phone is just as bad for your neck and shoulders, too. Every inch your head drops forward raises the load on your muscles. If you bend your neck so far that your chin touches your chest, it’s as if your neck has to support the weight of 5 heads instead of just one.
We know they make our legs look longer, but the higher they rise, the more your weight tips forward. Your thigh muscles have to work harder to keep your knee straight, which can cause pain.
When heels go up, so does the twisting force in your knees. If you wear them every day, you boost your odds for osteoarthritis. That’s when the bones and the cushioning between the bones break down.
Cracking your knuckles
This is one that never occurred to me, but that satisfying pop comes from tiny bubbles bursting in the fluid around your joints. Or from ligaments snapping against bone.
Despite what your parents might have told you – and mine did because it was such an annoying habit – it doesn’t cause arthritis. However it might be smart to stop as one study showed that this habit may cause your hands to swell and weaken your grip.
Big bag syndrome
Whether it’s a handbag, backpack, or messenger bag, packing too much can cause neck and shoulder pain. Heavy weight on one shoulder throws off your balance and your walk.
If you tend to carry things only on one side, the constant pull overstretches your muscles and tires out your joints. If you do that every day, your body’s going to let you know loud and clear.
Check the contents of your bag regularly and see how much you could ditch to save your joints from strain.
Using the wrong muscles
It’s all about using your body as it was designed to be used, so you engage the right muscles for the job. When you put too much load on little muscles, your joints pay the price.
If you need to open a heavy door, push with your shoulder instead of your fingers. When you lift something off the floor, bend at your knees and push up with your strong leg muscles.
When you carry something, hold it close to you in the palms of your hands instead of stressing your fingers.
Sleeping on your stomach
It might help with snoring, but not so much with the rest of your body. Lying on your tummy pushes your head back, which compresses your spine.
Your head also will face in one direction for longer stretches than if you sleep on your back. All that puts pressure on other joints and muscles.
If you have been trying to quit then here’s another reason: your joints will thank you. Nicotine from cigarettes cuts down on blood flow to your bones and to the cushioning discs in your back.
It limits how much bone-building calcium your body can take in. It also breaks down oestrogen, a hormone you need for clearing old bone and it slows new growth from progesterone that thickens bones.
All that makes your joints weaker and your hips more likely to break.
You may wonder how poor sleep can affect your joints but one study found that people with arthritis felt more pain after restless nights.
One theory is that when you don’t sleep well, it triggers inflammation in your body. That might lead to joint problems over time. More research is needed, but in the meantime try to get good sleep as often as you can.
Your body’s at its best when you work with it, not against it. That’s why posture matters. When you slump in your chair, it puts more stress on your muscles and joints and tires them out.
It’s like always jamming on your car brakes when you could just ease down on the pedal instead. So keep your back straight and those shoulders back and down.
Don’t ignore pain
When you work out, you might think you just need to push through it. After all, no pain, no gain is the mantra – but not in this instance.
It’s true that some muscle soreness is OK but not if it lasts for days or if your muscles are swollen or too sore to move or to touch.
Joint pain isn’t normal, so pay attention to it. If you think you overdid it, ease up on your exercises. If the pain won’t go away, check with your doctor.
Too long on a computer
I confess that I am an information junkie and when on the computer it is so easy to get distracted and forget the time. But it can literally be a pain in your neck — and your elbows, wrists, back, and shoulders.
The problem isn’t just bad posture, but that you hold it for too long. That overworks your muscles. It also puts pressure on the discs in your back. If you’re in a soft chair, prop up your arms with cushions to take the load off your shoulders and your neck.
Be sure to get up and move every hour, and it will help your eyes too if you keep fully blinking to keep them moisturised as we also tend to have too fixed a stare on the screen.
Check you are doing it right
When you run, bike, or play tennis, you use the same motions over and over. But if your form is bad, you’ll stress your body in all the wrong places.
If you overload your muscles, it puts more pressure on your joints, and you can end up with an injury like tennis elbow. So if you are getting regular pains then ask an expert to check you are doing it correctly.
What can help
There are few simple things that can make a difference and first regular stretching can help strengthen your muscles and tendons. It also can make them more flexible. That allows your joints to move more easily and helps the muscles around them work better. That’s key to healthy and stable joints.
Next up is strength training because once you turn 40, your bones start to get a little thinner and more likely to break. If you build muscle with strength training, it slows bone loss and triggers new growth.
So you not only get stronger muscles, but denser bones, too. Together, they stabilize your joints so you’re less likely to get hurt.
If you know you have a family history of osteoporosis, or have osteopenia, then progesterone is essential to help you build bones plus a dedicated supplement specifically designed to support both the progesterone and bone building.
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