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Is Pain a Side Effect of Menopause?

Most of us remember the cringyness and embarrassment of health classes in middle school, where teachers did their best to prepare us for the years of physical transition ahead. Unfortunately, there are not many classes for those facing the transition to menopause later in life, but maybe there should be! Most people don’t know what to expect and may feel blindsided by the onset of symptoms they were unprepared to manage. It can bring up many questions, including this one: Is pain a side effect of menopause?

History

It’s been 30 years since clinical research was first required to analyze results by gender. Since then, research funding for female-specific issues has slowly increased, but there is still much that is unknown.

When it comes to the intersection of pain and menopause, very few conclusive correlations exist. The current understanding is that a decrease in estrogen (which begins in perimenopause) can increase pain sensitivity. However, it’s hard to tell if the pain would surface separate from menopause or not.

To add to the issue, the pain experienced by women is often dismissed and minimized by practitioners. It also seems that, while some symptoms are common, each person experiences this transition differently. This can lead to a frustrating situation filled with more questions than answers.

So … what can be done?

Here are four key elements to keep in mind when you feel that the pain you’re experiencing is related to menopause (or peri-menopause):

1. Self-advocacy

  • Educate yourself on the common symptoms of menopause and perimenopause
  • Find supportive practitioners who will order the imaging, tests, or referrals you need – not just prescribe painkillers. Recurrent or acute pain warrants further investigation – whether or not menopause plays a role.
  • Take cues from your teenage self. Remember how important food, sleep, and fun were during that transition time? Now is a great time to re-prioritize those, with the added wisdom that the interim years have brought with them.

2. Observe the big picture

  • Is the pain intensified by stress? Menopause often occurs in the time of life when people are also caring for aging parents, helping children enter adulthood, and shouldering increased responsibility at work. Are there ways to offload some responsibilities? Greater simplicity can create some room in life to take better care of yourself when in pain.
  • Is the pain intensified because of your inner beliefs about aging? Take some time to reflect on what you believe about getting older. This doesn’t affect whether you have pain but can affect whether you believe that it is treatable.

3. Alternative support

  • Massage therapy can help alleviate joint and muscle pain and support recovery.
  • Personal training can correct movement patterns and strength inefficiencies that may perpetuate pain.
  • Chiropractic adjustments for joint pain and alignment issues.
  • Acupuncture can be a gentle way to treat both pain and some menopausal symptoms.

4. Stay optimistic

Menopause has long been something to dread for many women. Perhaps part of this is due to the vast amount of things that we simply don’t know yet. Writers tend to use words like “burdensome” and “chaotic” to describe this part of life. Practitioners are all over the map in terms of what they do and do not recommend. But while it does come with its challenges, many women report increased levels of happiness, freedom, and security as they move into their post-menopausal years. Read books, listen to podcasts, and search for experts and practitioners who will advocate for you. Take a powerful and wise view of what’s possible as we age!

So, are menopause and pain related? It’s hard to say definitively. But what is conclusive, is that there are many supportive options for both pain and menopause that are worth looking into, particularly when they coincide.

Located in the Eugene, OR area? Schedule an appointment at Well Balanced Center for Integrated Care today! Our experienced practitioners actively collaborate to create care plans that support both recovery from pain and improved quality of life.


Want to learn more? Check out the links below for some great resources on the topic!

10 Best Books on Menopause of 2024

What Happens After Menopause

What Healing Looks Like

Disclaimer alert: The views expressed within this article are opinions and are not meant to replace, contradict or be substitution for the advice or guidance of licensed medical or mental health professionals.