Menopause and Arthritis: Menopause & Chronic Conditions Series

Published: 15/09/2023

The next article in our Menopause and Chronic Illness Series.

Arthritis is a condition that affects the joints causing pain and inflammation. There are many different types of the condition but the main two are Osteoarthritis and Rheumatoid Arthritis. The most common being Osteo. 

What is Osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis is more common in women than men and onset is generally in the mid-forties and beyond. The joints are lined with cartilage which provides a cushion between bones. In Arthritis the cartilage is gradually worn away causing it to become frayed and thin leaving the bones to rub against each other. The main joints involved are hips, knees, hands and spine leading to painful, grating and swollen joints.

Given that Osteoarthritis tends to develop in mid-forties and is more prevalent in women than men there is some belief this may be menopause related although the research is minimal. It is thought as Oestrogen starts to lessen the joints become more exposed to wear and tear causing Osteoarthritis. 

What is Rheumatoid Arthritis?

Rheumatoid Arthritis is an autoimmune disease and women are twice as likely as men to develop it. Like Osteo it affects the joints but unlike Osteo if left untreated it can cause damage to internal organs like heart, lung or nervous system. 

The limited research indicates there may be a link between diminishing Oestrogen levels and Arthritis, but it is, to date, inconclusive. The condition can be managed with medication like anti-inflammatories such as Ibuprofen or Naproxen to help manage pain. (Always take with food and prescribed medication to protect the stomach lining). There is some evidence that taking HRT will help with symptom control, but this is largely anecdotal evidence and more in-depth research is needed on this.

Managing Arthritis and Menopause

Lifestyle plays an important role in managing arthritis as well as menopause. Exercise is vital as it keeps the bones and muscles healthy and supple taking the pressure off the affected joints. Individuals should aim for 150 hours or more a week of gentle-moderate aerobic exercise as well as strength exercises at least twice a week especially the major muscles around the affected joint.

Healthy eating and weight management is essential. Extra weight will put added strain on the joints worsening the condition. Certain foods can help with pain and inflammation, e.g., fish and walnuts high in Omega-3 oils is believed to decrease joint pain; garlic and ginger are natural anti-inflammatories and berries and spinach are high in antioxidants which have anti-inflammatory properties.

Individuals who smoke should stop as this is known to increase inflammation as well as other damaging effects throughout the body. Alcohol should be minimised as high intake may increase inflammation and may interact with medication. Reducing stress will help to control flare ups, yoga, meditation, etc will help with this. 

Currently there is no known cure for Rheumatoid or Osteoarthritis but with the right management, symptoms can be controlled and quality of life. 

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NHS, (2023) Arthritis.

Saunders, N. (2019) Menopausal Arthritis – How to Handle the Symptoms.

Rath, L. (2022) Going Through Menopause with Arthritis.

NHS, (2023) Living with Rheumatoid Arthritis.

World Health Organisation, (2023) Rheumatoid Arthritis.

Stines, Y. (2022) Alcohol and Arthritis: Pros and Cons.

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