October is Menopause Awareness Month, dedicated to tackling the taboos of a subject often suffered in silence, as well as sharing support options for health and well-being.
Hot flushes, night sweats, low mood and anxiety are all commonly recognised menopausal symptoms. However, the lesser-known sign of joint pain affects as many as 40% of all menopausal women. Joint stiffness is the most common contributor to impairment of quality of life and works in women of menopausal age.
Menopausal joint pain is often mistaken as an inevitable part of the ageing process, and while women may seek help for other symptoms, they struggle with aching and painful joints.
Commonly affected joints include the hands, shoulders, knees and hips, although all joints can be impacted. For many, this results in a downward spiral of taking less exercise, weight gain and further joint pain.
Dr Anne Henderson, consultant gynaecologist and accredited menopause expert, said: ‘Women may overlook aching or painful joints as a natural sign of getting older, but it’s important to understand the impact hormonal changes can have when approaching the menopause.’
‘Oestrogen has a direct impact on the musculoskeletal system, particularly joints. It can decrease collagen, which is found in muscles, tendons, ligaments and the joint itself, as well as helping the synovial buffering fluid in joints such as the hip and shoulder. A reduction in oestrogen during menopause helps to explain why women of this age are much more likely to suffer from musculoskeletal conditions.’
The symptoms of menopause usually start to appear between 45-55 years of age. However, according to consultant rheumatologist Dr Rod Hughes: ‘Menopausal joint pain can start several years before other menopausal symptoms. This is due to oestrogen levels starting to decline several years before menopause, causing a reduction in collagen, loss of cartilage and an increase in inflammation leading to joint pain and stiffness.’
Fortunately, there are simple and effective self-management tips that can reduce joint pain for women of menopausal age. Dr Anne Henderson comments: ‘It is important to consider a full spectrum of treatment options including lifestyle changes, diet, and exercise, but also herbal medicine and supplements that are backed by scientific evidence.’
‘Rose-hip extracts have been studied in multiple scientific trials, mostly for their cartilage protecting properties. The active compounds found in rose-hip, in particular the galactolipids known as GOPO, have been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties which can relieve pain. In contrast, some clinical studies show it to be as effective as taking paracetamol. Drinking plenty of water also helps to retain joint flexibility, while staying active strengthens supporting muscles and keeps excess weight at bay – reducing the impact on load baring joints.’
Dr Rod Hughes added: ‘Rose-hip extracts have a long history of medicinal use. Their potential benefits in treating joint pain conditions have relatively recently come to light. The most consistent and robust research has been undertaken on extracts from a specific species of Rose-hip called Rosa canina, which has been found to contain a powerful anti-inflammatory ingredient called GOPO.’
‘GOPO has been shown to help protect and repair joints and should undoubtedly be considered at the early onset of even mild joint pain. Not only do people report significant benefit from these supplements but good quality clinical research also shows GOPO is a practical choice.’
Dr Rod Hughes recommended: ‘Women over 45 who experience the early signs of menopausal joint pain and joint stiffness take early action to protect the long-term health of their joints and maintain their mobility, including:
Dehydration can exacerbate menopausal symptoms, including joint pain and a build-up of uric acid, which can contribute to inflammation.
Try a supplement
The galactolipid GOPO has been shown in randomised, placebo-controlled clinical trials to improve daily activities, joint pain and joint stiffness in women of menopausal age. In vitro studies have demonstrated that GOPO has anti-inflammatory properties that have a protective effect on cartilage, potentially helping cartilage and joint tissues rebuild and regenerate.
Physical activity helps synovial fluid circulate in the joint and increases blood flow, increasing oxygen and nutrient flow to the joints. Try non-weight bearing exercises such as yoga and swimming to relieve pressure on joints and helps keep joints active.
Include foods with anti-inflammatory properties such as nuts, leafy greens and olive oil and maintain a healthy balanced diet to keep weight at a healthy level.
GOPO Joint Health is a powerful natural anti-inflammatory treatment made from 100% specially cultivated rose-hip, with a high level of the galactolipid GOPO and rich in vitamin C, a key component in the body’s natural production of collagen.
GOPO has been shown in randomised, placebo-controlled clinical trials to relieve joint pain and stiffness in women of menopausal age, contributing to improved activity levels. In one study, 8 out of 10 patients reported a significant reduction in pain after just three weeks of GOPO.
GOPO Joint Health is available from Boots, Amazon, supermarkets and independent chemists nationwide and is priced at £19.52 for 120 capsules and £29.60 for 200 capsules. Visit the website for further information.