If you experience stiff, achy joints in menopause, you’re not alone, and there are a number of things you can do that can help.
In this blog, we’re going to break down some key action steps that can improve menopause joint pain.
If you’d prefer to listen to some more in depth, advice, check out this episode of my podcast:
So, let’s get started.
For optimal muscle and connective tissue health, we need to eat enough protein. Protein helps maintain your muscles and stay strong. It also helps you have more stable energy and sugar levels, which support weight loss.
These graphics show protein sources and how much to aim for.
Healthy joints also need healthy fats. These ‘good fats’ are anti-inflammatory, so can reduce pain, and essentially lubricate the joints. Below are the various healthy fats you could include in your diet, in portion sizes that are usually about right for health and weight loss. Including 2-3 of these foods daily is ideal.
Another change that can significantly help is to add more fruits and vegetables to your diet. They give your body the vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fibre it needs, as well as boosting your hydration. Different colours provide different levels of nutrients, so a variety is best for optimal health (joint and otherwise).
Omega 3 plays a key role in joint health, as well as reducing your long term risk of various diseases, and potentially boosting your mood, energy and weight loss efforts. We can get omega 3 from oily fish, and including salmon or other oily fish 2-3 times per week is highly recommended. But if you eat less than 3 portions per week, it’s worth supplementing.
While not within my scope of practice as a nutritionist and personal trainer (not a doctor), it has to be mentioned that HRT can have a hugely positive impact on joint pain, as well as many other symptoms of menopause. If it’s not something you’ve discussed with your doctor, it can be well worth it. You can also find some excellent information on the ‘Balance Menopause’ website – https://www.balance-menopause.com/
Sleep and Hydration
If you’re not sure if you’re drinking enough water, the colour of your urine is a very helpful indicator. If it’s pale, that’s a good sign that you’re properly hydrated. But if it’s a darker yellow, you need to drink more water.
If you’re getting headaches, feel stiff, or just think you’re not drinking enough water, try increasing your intake. You could try drinking a glass or 500 ml of water in the morning or afternoon. You might not want to drink as much at night so you won’t be up all night going to the bathroom.
Because as you age, you need your sleep. But it’s not only the number of hours you sleep that matters, the quality of sleep is equally important. Set up a calming evening routine, with no screens, to help you wind down at night. As much as possible, do this at the same time every night. This will help you fall asleep more easily.
Another tip to improve your sleep is to eat 1/4 to 1/3 plate of starchy carbs (potato, rice, pasta, beans, etc.) with a palm-sized portion of protein (beef, poultry, fish, tofu) as your evening meal. This combination helps boost your tryptophan, which increases your serotonin levels and helps you sleep. It can also help ensure your blood sugar levels don’t drop, causing you to wake up in the middle of the night.
Menopause Joint Pain – Posture, Imbalances and Alignment
Many of us don’t pay attention to the way we sit, stand, or even hold our bodies. This leads to imbalances and misalignment, which then leads to muscle and joint pain.
Over the next few days, pay attention to your posture. Notice the way you stand, sit, or carry things like your handbag. Do you stand more on one leg, leaning to a particular side? When you sit, do you hunch over? Is there a specific side of your body you frequently use to carry your handbag?
When you notice where you’re out of alignment or where there’s an imbalance, try to even it out. Switch the side of your body where your handbag is held. If you go running, try a bum/waist bag instead of carrying your phone or a drink in your hand.
It could also help to be aware of looking at your fitness watch while running. If you check if often to keep an eye on your pace or timings, even just lifting your arm to look at your watch can cause you to develop tightness or a lean to one side.
If you’re still having trouble figuring out if there are any imbalances going on, try single-leg and single-arm exercises.
Step-ups, lunges, split squats, and single-leg deadlifts are great exercises that can test your alignment.
At the gym, you could try single-arm bench press, chest press, row, or overhead press, comparing one side to the other.
Once the issue has been identified, it’s time to start working on it.
Below are some activities you can incorporate into your fitness routine to reduce menopause joint pain:
Do single-leg/single-arm exercises
These exercises are great for repairing alignment and imbalances. They even target your core muscles in addition to every other muscle they work.
When doing them, make sure you start with the light weights or low repetitions your weaker side can handle. Pushing your weaker side to do what your stronger side can do may lead to an even bigger imbalance.
Warm-up before weights or cardio
Before you start your workout, do some light warm-up to get the blood flowing into your muscles and joints. The longer you can spend warming up, the better if you’re experiencing peri or post-menopause. Here’s a quick guide on how to add warm-ups to your fitness routine.
If you’re going for a run:
Walk for at least 5 to 10 minutes before your run. Don’t just bolt out the door and start running. On the mornings when it’s too cold for a walk outside, do some mobility exercises inside first. This could be some bodyweight squats, lunges, or simply jogging on the spot before you go for your run.
If you’re working out at the gym or home:
Before your gym workout, start by doing some light cardio. You can spend 3 to 5 minutes on the rower, cross trainer, walk on the treadmill, or stationary bike. From there, do mobility exercises like squats or lunges.
If you’re at home, jog in place, do arm swings, and then do some mobility exercises before diving into your routine for the day.
If you’re lifting weights:
Start with a light warm-up set of weights before you start your workout. Use weights that are 50 – 75% of what you normally lift for your warm up set. As an example, if you normally bench press 10kg dumbells, warm up with 6kgs. Or do body weight squats before doing goblet squats. After your warm up set, then complete the usual ‘working sets’ (e.g. 3 sets of 8-12 reps at the highest weight you can lift for that rep range).
Take off your shoes
Yes, training with no shoes on is actually good for your feet. It works the little stabilising muscles you have in your feet, which often get weak over time when encased in shoes. Working out without your shoes helps keep your feet strong, improves your balance, and provides a stable platform for your ankles, knees, and hips.
If you’re working out in a gym, you can usually still do exercises like deadlifts and step ups without shoes – just be careful, and don’t walk around with no shoes on where there’s a danger of others dropping weights on your foot.
Target key areas of your body
There are core areas of your body you should focus on strengthening when you want to reduce menopause joint pain. These areas include:
Your glutes are a key muscle group that protects your knees and your back. Often they switch off when we’re sitting down. If your job or lifestyle has you largely sedentary, your glutes are likely weak or inactive, which puts pressure on your knees and lower back to work harder in compensation. As you’d imagine this usually leads to knee or back issues.
Glute bridges, band bridges, crab walks, single-leg bridges, and hip thrusts are great glute exercises you can try when you’re working out at the gym. Planks or side planks, are also highly beneficial, provided you are able to maintain the proper form while doing them – keep your head in line, your core braced, and don’t let your back or neck drop.
Some key exercises and stretches that activate your glutes are shown here.
Neck, chest and shoulder stretches
Due to our modern lifestyle where we do a lot of actions in front of us – driving, working on computers, looking at phones etc – we can often develop tight chest muscles. This leads to a hunched posture, forward head position and can contribute to a sore neck and shoulders.
Upper back strengthening
Our upper backs are also usually affected when we’re hunched over our desks all day. So, you’ll want to be sure to incorporate exercises that work that area of your body, such as band rows or pulling movements.
Focus on doing more pulling than pushing movements. Generally, we’re strong and often tight in our chests, when compared to our upper back. So, exercises like rows with bands, dumbbells, bars, kettlebells or cables, and pulldowns (or alternatively the lat pulldown machine) will help you fix that imbalance.
Menopause Joint Pain – Be Mindful of Movement
Above all, when you’re exercising and going about your day, think about how your body is moving. Pay attention to your posture. Look for imbalances in your position, strength, and range of motion.
Whether you’re walking, carrying stuff, or sitting down at your desk or home, aim to keep your body straight and in line. Note when your body is not in balance and realign.
Try to incorporate more movement throughout your day. Instead of sitting for long periods, get up and stretch. Stretch while you’re waiting for the kettle to boil, cooking dinner, or during the commercials when you’re watching TV.
Even just 30 seconds to a few minutes of any stretches, exercises, or some type of movement can make a big difference. Sometimes, we’re pressed for time and just can’t get a full workout in. These small bursts of exercise can have a real impact on our long-term health and fitness goals.
Menopause Joint Pain – In Summary
Hopefully, these tips will help you slow down the effects of aging and reduce menopause joint pain. They can also enable you to retain the strength and fitness you need to sustain an active lifestyle, pain and medication-free.
Take control of your health and increase your physical well-being with these tips. The time and money you spend building these habits are well worth it.
If you need help to make these lasting lifestyle changes to reduce menopause joint pain, check out my podcast or Instagram (@hayleyplummerpt) for more information and support.
And to find out more about how I can help you through online coaching, check out more info here: