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Menopause and Arthritis
 Dr. Rashmi Rajat Chopra

Menopause and Arthritis

What is menopausal arthritis?

The hormone Estrogen is important to maintain the health of bone and joints as well as brain, heart and skin. Estrogen receptors are found on human joint cartilage. The anti- inflammatory effects of estrogen are protective for the joint and cartilage. Estrogen also helps in bone building.

Typically women attain menopause between 45-55 years of age. Menopause causes reduction in the levels of estrogen hormone causing adverse effects on bone and joints. Joint pain is one of the more common menopause symptoms and it can be debilitating as it reduces mobility and flexibility. Thinning of bones, also called 'Osteporosis' is a common cause of weakness of bones leading to fractures especially in menopausal women.

What is menopause?

Joint pain affects many people as they get older and is also common among menopausal women. Aches, stiffness and swelling around the joint and sometimes warmth are typical symptoms of menopausal joint pain. These may be worse in the morning, improving as the day continues. Larger joints such as hips and knees experience higher impacts and are more prone to arthritis in menopausal women. Back, Hand and finger joints are also commonly affected. High impact exercise such as jogging can exacerbate the problem, although this is often eased with rest. Weight gain is a common problem faced after menopause. Joint pains cause limitation of mobility thus causing weight gain which further puts pressure on the affected joints.

Literature/ Research findings-

Scientific literature is available to suggest that post-menopausal women are prone to arthritis. Menopausal arthritis can run in the family. This may be due to disturbance of the metabolism of estrogen due to presence of abnormal genes which are genetically inherited. Women who are taking estrogen blocking medications such as breast cancer therapy, have increased risk of developing joint pains and swelling. Women who have undergone operation to remove the ovaries are also at higher risk of developing menopausal arthritis. Menopause is also linked to late onset or worsening of Rheumatoid Arthritis.

Women who are using estrogen containing oral contraceptives are at reduced risk of developing arthritis as suggested by research. This has established the protective effect of estrogen on bone and joints

Treatment/ Prevention

Replenishing the levels of estrogen hormone forms the basis of treatment as well as prevention. Starting estrogen replacement therapy under the guidance of your doctor will help reduce the symptoms of joint pain and swelling.

Maintaining a healthy weight, regular exercise and having a balanced diet is helpful to keep symptoms under control. Reducing the pressure and repititive strain on the joints is important, Avoid jogging on hard surfaces to protect your joints. At the same time though, keeping them flexible will reduce joint pain. Yoga and swimming are beneficial for strengthening your muscles and joints without exerting too much pressure or load on the joints.

Fruits and vegetables are packed with essential nutrients and antioxidants. They can help reduce joint inflammation. Balanced diet will also help in weight control thereby reducing the strain on the joints. Inclusion of nuts, wholegrains and dried fruits into your diet with help supply calcium and magnesium which are essential for strong and healthy bones. Taking oral supplements can also help. Vitamin B3, Omega fatty acid and fish oil supplements can also recommended.

Hormone cortisol which is released during stress causes inflammation and worsen the symptoms. Relaxation and meditation might be of help. Alternative treatments such as massage or acupuncture help many women with their joint pain symptoms. They directly target the area of pain in order to ease the symptoms.

Other medical therapies available include oral pain control medications, intra-articular injections, physiotherapy, splints. Surgical options are considered when other options have been exhausted or for established deformities. Your doctor can suggest the suitable option for you.

  • Fiona Watt: Hand osteoarthritis, menopause and menopausal hormone therapy; Mauritas 83 (2016) 13-18.
  • Wluka AE, Cicittini FM, Spector TD: Menopause, estrogens and arthritis; Mauritas 35 (2000) 183-199.
  • Von Mulhen D, Morton D, von Mulhan CA, Barrett-Connor E: Postmenopausal estrogen and increased risk of clinical osteoarthritis at the hip, hand and knee in older women; Journal of Women's health and gender based medicine, 2002:.11:6, 511-518.

Senior Consultant
Hand and Wrist
Fortis Bone & Joint Institute
Fortis Escorts Hospital
Fortis Memorial Research Institute

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