A recent study published by the North American Menopause Society (NAMS) journal, reveals a surprising link between menopause and chronic pain sensitivity. In fact, in addition to the myriad of negative symptoms that result in perimenopausal and menopausal women due to low or fluctuating estrogen, chronic pain complaints are particularly common in women during midlife when, as researchers note, pain sensitivity is at an all time high. In addition, women in their perimenopausal, menopausal, and post-menopausal years may be prone to disrupted sleep, reduced physical activity, and weight gain, which all contribute to a lower pain tolerance.
Here are a few of the chronic pain conditions common to women in menopause:
According to statistics from the National Osteoporosis Foundation (NOF), 10 million U.S. individuals suffer from osteoporosis, however, 80% of them are female. Women usually tend to have smaller, finer bones compared to men. However, during perimenopause and menopause estrogen, a hormone that safeguards and strengthens bones, reduces drastically, resulting in bone loss and increased risk of bone fractures. The NOF claims that 1 in 2 women over the age of 50-years old will break a bone due to osteoporosis.
Researches have long speculated that progesterone and estrogen (both female sex hormones) are linked to fibromyalgia. Indeed, 10 million people worldwide suffer with fibromyalgia and 90% of patients are female, according to statistics from the National Fibromyalgia Association. Not only do researchers also note that women with existing fibromyalgia are likely to expreience early peri-menopause and menopause, they also suggest that these same women experience worsening fibromyalgia symptoms after menopause (i.e., distrubed sleep, increased pain, and chronic fatigue).
3. Headache and migraines
While some women with migraines in their teens and 20s suffer from symptoms in perimenopause. Many women with no history of headaches or migraines, report onset of head pain in early perimenopause due to hormonal imbalances. In addition, many doctors will prescribe a low dose oral birth control pill (for early perimenopause) and hormone replacement therapy (HRT) to treat menopausal symptoms (i.e., hot flashes, irritability, etc.) however, these synthetic hormones have been known to cause migraines.
4. Low back pain
While weight increases and reduced physical activity may contribute to back and neck pain during the menopausal year, a 2017 Chinese study published by the North American Menopause Society (NAMS) journal has found an increase in low back pain in the lumbar spine in menopausal women. In particular, the study found that reduced oestrogen notably reduced disc height and contributed to disc degeneration in the lumbar spine for menopausal females.