71% of women experience joint pain during perimenopause — here’s why, and how to manage it.
While you may feel stiffness or discomfort in your knees, hips, hands, feet, or spine as you get older, if you’re in your late 30’s or early 40’s,
perimenopause might be the cause. Perimenopause joint pain is one of the lesser known horrible perimenopause symptoms — it’s no hot flashes or night sweats — but it’s still a real, uncomfortable symptom that might arise during this transition.
Luckily, there are many strategies to alleviate and help navigate perimenopause joint pain. If you’re experiencing this stiffness or discomfort, here’s what you need to know.
What is joint pain?
Joints are parts of the musculoskeletal system that facilitate movement and provide structural support to the body. They’re junctions where two or more bones meet and are surrounded by connective tissue, including cartilage, ligaments, and synovial fluid.
Joint pain, also known as arthralgia, is a common stiffness or discomfort of these joints that many people face, especially as we age. Half of the female population experiences musculoskeletal pain at mid age, and
71% of perimenopausal women experience perimenopause joint pain.
Joint pain can feel various ways, from a dull, persistent ache to sharp, acute discomfort. You may feel joint pain in a single joint or many at once. Most commonly, people feel joint pain in their knees, hips, hands, feet, and spine.
Joint pain can result from a myriad of factors, such as injury, inflammation, autoimmune disorders, and, notably, hormonal fluctuations—including those that happen during perimenopause.
Perimenopause and joint pain
Perimenopause joint pain can occur because of the hormonal fluctuations that happen during perimenopause, specifically due to changes in estrogen.
>>MORE: What Are Normal Estrogen Levels (And How Do I Measure Mine)?
While estrogen is known for its role in the reproductive process, it also has a big impact on other bodily factors, including maintaining bone density and joint health. Estrogen helps regulate inflammation and promotes the production of synovial fluid, which lubricates the joints.
During perimenopause, estrogen levels decline, which means the body loses some of its joint health protection. This decline in estrogen can lead to more joint stiffness and reduced flexibility, which may manifest as joint pain.
Integrity of connective tissues Estrogen increases the collagen content of connective tissues, like cartilage and ligaments, that provide structural support to the joints. Any alterations to the composition of connective tissues can lead to joint instability and pain. When estrogen declines and doesn’t increase collagen content like it used to, it may compromise the integrity of the connective tissues and contribute to joint discomfort. Osteoarthritis
Perimenopausal women may be at increased risk of developing osteoarthritis, a degenerative joint condition where tissue breaks down over time and eventually leads to joint failure. This condition commonly affects weight-bearing joints such as the knees and hips, leading to pain, swelling, and reduced mobility.
Estrogen deficiency — including decreased levels of estrogen during perimenopause — can exacerbate the wear and tear of the joints and potentially accelerate the progression of osteoarthritis. Inflammatory factors
Hormonal fluctuations during perimenopause
can influence the body's inflammatory response. Increased inflammation may exacerbate existing joint problems or contribute to the development of new ones. Conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune disorder characterized by joint inflammation, may be triggered or intensified during perimenopause. How long does perimenopause joint pain last?
Perimenopause joint pain can occur and last during any part of the perimenopause transition. Some people might experience intermittent discomfort for a brief period, while others may have persistent joint issues for the entirety of perimenopause. The timeline for joint pain during perimenopause is unique for everyone and can be influenced by a combination of factors, including genetics, overall health, lifestyle, and the intensity of hormonal fluctuations.
In many cases, joint pain tends to alleviate after menopause, as hormonal fluctuations stabilize. The postmenopausal phase brings a more consistent hormonal environment, potentially providing relief for individuals who experienced joint pain during perimenopause. However, this relief is not universal, and some women may continue to grapple with joint discomfort even after menopause.
Regardless of how long perimenopause joint pain lasts, there are many ways to mitigate and alleviate this uncomfortable symptom.
Perimenopause joint pain treatment
Perimenopause joint treatment can consist of medication, different kinds of therapies, and lifestyle modifications.
Pain management medications
If your perimenopause joint pain is more intermittent, you may find comfort in over-the-counter pain relievers, like Tylonel or Ibuprofen. These medications can help provide temporary relief from joint pain; prolonged use of these medications should be monitored by a healthcare provider. In some cases, a provider might be able to provide a prescription for more severe or persistent joint pain.
Hormone replacement therapy Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) helps mitigate the effects of declining estrogen levels that come with perimenopause. By supplementing lower estrogen, HRT aims to restore hormonal balance and alleviate joint discomfort.
If you’re interested in hormone therapy to help with your perimenopause joint pain, consult a professional to weigh the benefits and risks.
Physical therapy can help strengthen muscles, improve joint function, and enhance mobility. Working with a physical therapist with techniques like stretching, gentle resistance training, and joint mobilization can help you not only alleviate some joint pain but hopefully prevent symptoms from worsening.
Some individuals find relief from perimenopause joint pain through complementary and alternative therapies.
Acupuncture, massage, and herbal supplements are examples of approaches that some women find helpful. It's essential to consult with healthcare professionals before incorporating these treatments, ensuring they align with overall health and any existing medical conditions. Lifestyle modifications
Like physical therapy, lifestyle modifications can help strengthen muscles, maintain joint flexibility, and reduce stiffness. Regular, low-impact exercise like swimming or walking and a diet rich in nutrients like calcium and vitamin D can support bone health.
Perimenopause and joint pain: the bottom line
Perimenopause joint pain can be an uncomfortable and hurtful symptom that comes as your estrogen levels decline during your transition. While every individual’s experience is unique — from how long perimenopause joint pain lasts to the intensity of their pain — there are ways to find relief. Whether you use medication, hormone replacement therapy, physical or alternative therapies, or lifestyle modifications, there are tons of options for navigating through this difficult transition—so you can live a more comfortable, pain-free life.