Those pesky aching joints: menopausal arthralgia

I asked my onc yesterday about those awful aches - after your anecdotes of the GP tendency to assume arthritis, and I won't accept that. Mine are getting worse and worse, I can't move my hands at all in the morning now, and my shoulders are painful to varying degrees, every other one like my hips and knees are complaining. I've been telling friends I feel like chemo has aged me years overnight.

She said instantly it was that wretched galloping menopause to blame. The sudden withdrawal of oestrogen causes menopausal arthralgia (a term I hadn't heard before) and that the only answer is really either HRT (no good for my endometroid OC which they believe is is hormone linked) or painkillers, plus exercise/stretching.

I looked up and found this paper "Menopausal Arthralgia: fact or fiction" - so there is evidently some debate about this. Copying the abstract here for info:

Arthralgia is experienced by more then half of the women around the time of menopause. The causes of joint pain in postmenopausal women can be difficult to determine as the period of menopause coincides with rising incidence of chronic rheumatic conditions such as osteoarthritis. Nevertheless, prevalence of arthralgia does appear to increase in women with menopausal transition and is thought to result from reduction in oestrogen levels. Similar syndrome occurs following sudden withdrawal of hormone replacement therapy or treatment with aromatase inhibitors. Various interactions between sex hormones and pain processing pathways, immune cells and chondrocytes have been demonstrated but undoubtedly require further research. Whilst, at present, no specific treatment exists for menopausal arthralgia, a number of conservative measures may be effective. Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) has been shown to have some benefit in alleviating arthralgia associated with menopausal transition, and can be considered in women who report distressing vasomotor symptoms. Simple analgesia, weight loss and physical exercise should be encouraged particularly in women with underlying osteoarthritis. Finally, other factors commonly associated with chronic pain and menopausal transition such as fatigue, poor sleep, sexual dysfunction and depression need to be addressed.

Which isn't terribly helpful. However, interestingly the onc suggested that I try daily ibuprofen - but not bother with any proton pump inhibitor like omeprazole. She had it heard of anything about this in relation to cancer recurrence though but then said "it can't hurt - why not try it"

Not sure if I emerged more or less informed/confused!


Sue xxx

24 Replies

  • Hi Sue,

    Sorry you are suffering with this!

    I've done quite a bit of reading and researching into menopause (esp. surgically-induced, aggressive), and have supported several other women through it. In my own case, and that of some others, magnesium has been the key to radically reducing these symptoms.

    You might like to see -her book 'The Magnesium Miracle', is a useful reference.

    I hope you find the solution for you.

    Best wishes,


  • Dear Sue

    Thanks for posting this up. It prompts a number of thoughts.

    First of all joint pain can indeed be helped by reducing weight, gentle exercise and mild daily painkillers. This all makes sense. It's also not such a bad idea to be taking Ibroprofen or similar because you'll recall Eileen's posts which suggested that this drug, taken on a daily basis, is associated with remission in cancer patients. Having said that Eileen qualified her point by saying more research under control conditions is needed to identify the true benefits of Ibroprofen.

    Ibroprofen can cause problems such as gastrointestinal adverse events so it might not be suitable for everyone. Each person needs to be aware if there are any reasons it should be avoided. I'm assuming your physician considers you're not at any risk of this but if you're not taking Omeprazole you must make sure you take Ibroprofen after eating. I would say that it's worth checking with a GP before taking any analgesic on a daily basis.

    I seem to recall reading you're training for the Race for Life. It might be a good idea when the joints are causing problems not to run but to take a gentler exercise. I've controlled arthritis for nearly 30 years by gentle exercising through the pain of arthritis and taking Ibroprofen on days when the pain is too bad to be remedied by exercise. Acccording to my GP exercise lubricates the joints so whilst it is very painful at first within 10 minutes or so the joint pain tends to diminish.

    When the pain is bad I cycle or walk and my husband pulls my legs (not joking here!). My worse pain is in the hip joints due to a skiing accident. My daughter, who is an osteopath, suggested pulling the joints apart which helps to disperse the scratchy stuff inside the joints that causes so much pain. She also recommends standing on one foot on a step and swinging the other leg back and forth which actually has the same effect on the joint as walking but is less painful. That also seems to work well on bad days. I guess you could apply the same principles to the joints where you have pain.

    Another complimentary remedies that people have recommended is high-dose Glucosamine which is expensive but I understand seems to help some people. From time to time I take Rose Hip and Salmon Oil bought from Holland and Barrett which was recommended by a South African nurse-geriatrician and this seems to be as effective as Glucosamine but a fraction of the cost. Many years ago my mother controlled osteo and rheumatoid arthritis by diet. There's a book on diet for arthritis. You can also visit a homeopath or herbalist to see what they recommend.

    As you say, if it's not doing to do any harm why not try it. My GP warned me though - be aware that homeopathic remedies are unlikely to have contra-indications (because in his opinion they don't do anything anyway) but herbal remedies must be treated with caution as these can contra-indicate with some conditions such as cancer. He was only yesterday giving me a warning because he wrote out a prescription for Mistletoe for me. He prescribed it only on the condition that I understood he knew nothing about it but he was doing so having been referred by a private homeopath who specialises in oncology care - Dr Sossie Kassab.

    Sorry about the rambling response. Just wanted to see if I can help at all. Joint pain is beastly.

    Loads of love xxx Annie

  • That's ok, rambles are good. So I have lost weight, am already just walking race for life, do daily stretches and take all the supplements mentioned as well as turmeric daily!

    I may be a bit stuffed, really. Haven't decided re ibuprofen but that's a good point about doing it after food in the case of no stomach defence... I stressed this, the onc was adamant it wasn't necessary but we didn't talk about pre/post food factor.

  • My Dr suggested glucosamine and I bought the brand she recommended and got an allergic reaction - hard to get my breath, headache, diarrhea, and thought I had the flu. It turns out I was allergic to the shellfish that glucosamine is made of. My older Dr - a naturopath, told me it's got too many side effects and often doesn't work. I'm now taking turmeric - and magnesium. I am thin and when I stopped taking HRT, I got terrible joint pains and leg cramps. I just went back on the HRT after about 4 months. I'm 64 and have been on it since I had Hashimotos at 36.

  • Hi Wiese, I hope you reported the allergic attack to the MHRA Yellow Card reporting system.

    It's essential all medicines and health products that cause a reaction are reported.

  • Thank you. I never heard of it. Will do!

  • Great info! Thank you! I may try the rosehip and salmon oil.

  • The human menopause is one of the great puzzles of physiology. It doesn't occur in other species - females retain their fertility and hormones throughout their lives.

    There are a number of theories why this is, the most common being that continued menstruation causes anaemia, therefor it is advantageous to stop.

    Oestrogen is a feel good hormone, it confers a general sense of well being along with all the other things it does.

    I have heard of joint pain along with the litany of other menopausal issues - low libido, generalised fatigue, low energy levels, mild depression, mood swings, weight gain (oestrogen affects metabolism) etc.. These issues are to an extent interdependent, self perpetuating and also self exacerbating.

    It's now accepted that although hormone levels decline sharply during the menopause the ovaries continue to function throughout live. This was why I was so anxious to keep mine, to my eternal regret. I was perimenopausal aged 42.

    I have often thought that men would simply not tolerate the menopause.

    I would suggest a thyroid check - just to be sure that isn't causing any problems because poor thyroid function makes everything worse. If that's OK, anti inflammatories, exercise including gentle stretching, hot baths. Try a good omega 3 supplement. It's very important to keep active, taking walks every day. I have arthritis along with all the effects of the menopause, so I know how you feel. I find I feel much better and have much more energy in hot sunny weather, so I wonder if vitamin D levels have something to do with it. You can ask your GP to check your vitamin D levels and start supplementation if they are low. But beware of all these articles advocating 5,000 iu a day - two studies have suggested over-replacement leads to calcification of the aorta, which is something you seriously want to avoid.

    Sorry this is long winded, had to break off to care for a sick dog - who had chewed his tudor collar off. Tudor collars are supposed to prevent chewing. On we go...

  • Ive been taking VitD3 5,000 or more per day for over a year now. I have no other symptoms but those, (joints and leg cramps). My bone density is good and I walk everywhere when Im not taking public transit. I started taking my low dose of HRT again but every other day.

  • I read that with Vit D3, we should be taking Vit K2 - they work in tandem to help protect our arteries, blood clots, bones, skin, brain, and for cancer prevention - most multiple vitamins have it - we need up to 90 mcg per day.

  • Hi Sue! Sorry you're feeling aches and pains. They do make you feel old and creaky - not a description I could apply to you ;-)

    I am taking magnesium for migraines and it seems to be reducing the frequency (not last Saturday) I also take turmeric, fish oil and glucosamine for joint pain. However, the best thing I've found, is tai chi. I hadn't done much for nearly 3 weeks until Monday and felt really creaky and stiff. I try to remember to do some t c exercises every day, but sometimes don't fit them in. Also a walk,..... boring, but makes me feel looser.

    Hope some of these suggestions help

    Love Wendy xx

  • Tai chi is on my list! I work full time though..

  • Have a look on the site :- They have weekend beginner courses and evening classes. They're international, so you may find somewhere near you. Good luck xx

  • Thank you, I will check it out. I don't know if going back on HTT will help or if it's worth the risks, but I do know that Tai Chi is wonderful. I used to be a dancer and did Tai Chi years ago. The only problem is making time for it.

  • All the best xx

  • Also a combination of Glucosamine, Chondroitin and MSM may be helpful, I have taken them for a long time and they certainly do help a lot!

    My GP told me about this supplement combination when I was still in my 30`s as I have suffered from such muscle aches and joint pains for long enough. "Tina" she said "If everyone started to take this at the age of 20, no one would have arthritis" !!! Food for thought but a little late in telling us older gells now, LOL!

    You need to give this a chance to work - take it for 6 months and see the difference.

    Best of luck - our whole family take it now, big hugs from Tina xxx

  • Do you know if the non shellfish glucosamine works too?

  • Hi Sue,

    Being the age I am....I can honestly say that it is not the menopause for describe my pains exactly... I haven't got athritis either.sending best wishes and sympathy and a pat on the head... Love x G x :-/ ;-)

  • Thanks all - am doing all these things already, just wanted to throw in the new terminology and raise this slightly puzzling thing around ibuprofen/no omeprazole, really.


  • As I got out of my car this morning and ouched my way across the car park I was wondering if it was the after effects of chemo, the menopause or something else - so reading your post was helpful and I reckon my aches are a combo of all of the above. I, like you, take all the supplements so need to decide what else to add in......large glass of Rioja I think xxxx

  • Cheers! Me too ;-)

  • I believe with my whole body that joint pain is linked to menopause. I had a hysterectomy 2 months ago amd have been having joint pain especially in my hips like I have never had. I am 31. It is debilitating. I also already have ms, but the hip pain only came after the hydterectomy.

  • Well I am now a year+ on from mine. I tend to agree. The aches have been constant, ever since. I am still managing without taking any anti inflammatories, but do wonder how long I can escape having to do something :-( sorry you are suffering too!


    Sue xxx

  • I've suffered aches, and do was advised to take evening primrose oil and black cohosh that has helped, my dose now needs increasing.

    I suffer mild bi polar, so can't take HRT, I get confused sometimes as to which symptoms are related to which cause.

    I have flu like aches which seems better with exercise, madly crave sugar and bloat when I suffer badly, which returns to normal when my aches stop, odd? I also feel very tired.

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