Perimenopause and Joint Pain

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Ask any physio, (or women who is in the thick of it), and they will tell you that there is definitely a link between Perimenopause and joint pain. Frozen shoulder is especially common during perimenopause and often comes on after a stressful episode.

Perimenopause, a time of great change, is a stage of life when Vata, the air element that governs our nervous system and joints, is heightened. Autumn, another time of change and cooling temperatures in our seasonal cycles, is also a Vata time of the year.

The combination of elevated Vata, Perimenopause and Autumn together is a perfect storm for increased joint pain.

Without perhaps often thinking about it, (unless you do have joint pain) your life, and all the experiences your body enables you to have, relies so much on your joint health.

According to Ayurveda our joints are related to Vata. This makes sense as our joints and bones are porous and have pockets or space and air. The primary seat of Vata is our colon. This gives us the clue that our digestion, elimination and joint health are intimately connected.

Our joint health also relies on Kapha (water and earth). Specifically, the lubrication of our synovial fluid which is a sub-category of Kapha called sleshaka kapha. Sleshaka Kapha is a bi-product of our fat tissue. So, low body weight, which is a sign that Vata is high, will have a detrimental impact on joint health as it leads to joint dryness which causes friction and inflammation.

When Vata is high, as happens when experiencing chronic stress, or diet is wrong for your body, or during perimenopause, its mobile and drying qualities deplete the juiciness of kapha in our body – think synovial fluid, cerebral spinal fluid, lymph, and the mucous membranes of our gut and sinuses.

We need this juiciness in just the right amount to keep all of our bodily functions ticking over well!

During perimenopause our juiciest hormone, estrogen, is naturally in decline. Estrogen, (in the right amount as too much is another issue, read more about that here), helps take care of our joints, brains, heart and whole wellbeing.

Perimenopause tends to accentuate what we are already physically experiencing. The increase in Vata at this time of life affects the nervous system which triggers a cascade of other symptoms, from hot flushes and poor sleep, to anxiety and feeling more frazzled, as well as heightened joint and muscle aches and pains.

Here are some specific factors that can affect your joints.

Poor digestion and the formation of poorly digested food materials, aka ama or toxins. We all accumulate some toxins in our life. Some of this ama is eliminated through your waste channels and some travels into your circulation to settle into your weak spots and create inflammation. Common weak spots are our joints, especially the smaller joints of our fingers and toes, that are furthest from our core.

Signs that you have Ama are – a thick coating on your tongue, feeling foggy, lethargic and dull, lack of appetite or smell, headaches and joint pain.

The change of hormones in Perimenopause can also affect digestion and compound this contributing cause of joint pain.

High Vata can come about through stress, or poor digestion and usually is a combination of both. You are designed to deal with some stress but, if it is relentlessly high for some time, it is very catabolic, meaning it wears your body down. Stress impacts our digestion too which leads to poorly nourished tissues and, as in the example above, toxins settling into the joints.

As mentioned above estrogen drops during perimenopauses and this contributes to more dryness in your joints. Low body weight also plays a role.

Long term high cortisol in our blood stream leads to a decrease in Progesterone, our stabilising hormone, as it steps up to support cortisol production. Progesterone is already naturally declining from the age of 35, and more so during Peri menopause. But we need progesterone to keep our bones and joints strong. High cortisol and low Progesterone is the same as high Vata which dries out and weakens our joints and bones. (Learn more about how to alleviate high Vata and low progesterone here),

Your food choices also affect your joint health. If you naturally have more Fire element, (Pitta), in your body then the acidic and inflammatory substances such as coffee; alcohol; the nightshade group of veggies (tomato, eggplant, capsicum, white potato); vinegar and even fermented foods can increase your joint pain.

If you naturally have an abundance of the Air, Vata element, it is the cold, light, and dry foods that will provoke more joint dryness and pain. Think dry crackers, rice or corn thins, raw veggies, any refrigerated food and drink and carbonated drinks. Coffee and alcohol, being such strong substances, are also is not helpful for your joints.

As always, Ayurveda takes a wholistic approach to alleviating joint pain. Focussing on the painful joints alone may bring some relief but does not address the root cause.

Here are some tips that you can do to support your joint health.

The is key to maintaining healthy joints and alleviating the progression of arthritis. As we are all unique, what you eat should match your unique needs. Make a time with me or your local Ayurvedic Practitioner to assess your dietary needs.

Having your main meal at lunch time will support good digestion for everyone. Our digestion is designed to eat our most sustaining meal in the middle of the day. Eating large meals at night can lead to more Ama that affects your joints.

Yep, less alcohol and coffee, meat and hard to digest dairy. Take a curious approach and notice how your joints feel when you have more of these substances. Cause and effect is the science of Ayurveda!

Organic Castor Oil is a brilliant remedy for reducing inflammation and pain. Rub castor oil onto your inflamed joint daily. Or massage your painful joint with castor oil, then apply some more oil to a cloth and wrap the joint with the cloth, strapping it in place with medical tape. Leave it on overnight. Remove in the morning.

You can also take a traditional Ayurvedic remedy for joint pain. Gently fry together in a pan equal parts castor oil and ginger powder. Stir to homogenise it into a paste (like Vegemite consistency). Keep in the fridge and take ¼ – ½ tsp each night before bed with warm to hot water.

Science now backs what Ayurveda has know for thousand of years… turmeric is good for our joints! Add turmeric to your diet, ideally ingested with ghee as a carrier to take nourishment and antiinflammatory properties to your joints. Do not use excessive amounts of turmeric if you have high Pitta (fire) as it can be too heating. Check with your Ayurvedic Practitioner to know if this is right for you. 

Shatavari is a beautiful herb that is nourishing and lubricating for your whole body, including your joints. It help to maintain good levels of estrogen. Guduchi is blood cleansing and reduces inflammation. Ashwagandha supports the nervous system and helps reduce Vata. It is always best to see an Ayurvedic practitioner before self-medicating with herbs.

Self massage, called Abhyanga, helps to alleviate joint and muscle pain, nourish your nervous system, increase circulation to your joints and improve detoxing and moving toxins. Mahanarayan Oil; a traditional herbalised oil that has specific Vata reducing herbs cooked into a base of Black Sesame Oil is excellent for reducing joint pain. It can also be mixed in equal parts with Castor oil.

Lastly, reduce stress as much and you can and remember to do those activities that bring you JOY! This will calm the Vata and support good joint health and hormone balance.

There is so much that can be done to alleviate your perimenopause symptoms, joint pain and reduce the formation or progression of arthritis in its tracks. Reach out and book your consultation here.

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Perimenopause and Joint Pain

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