What is menopause-related joint pain and how can yoga help?

photo by Engin Akyurt

Menopause-related joint aches are particularly common, and in one recent survey, they were experienced by almost 40% of women aged between 45 and 65.

Joint pain affects many people as they get older, but unfortunately, it’s also common among menopausal women. Aches, stiffness, and swelling around the joint are common symptoms of menopausal joint pain.

Why do we get joint pain from menopause?

One reason menopause impacts the joints is these changing hormone levels. There are oestrogen receptors in your joints; oestrogen protects bones and helps keep joint inflammation low. As oestrogen levels decline during perimenopause (the first stage of menopause), the joints can swell and become painful.

Another contributing factor is osteoporosis. Decreasing estrogen levels also contributes to loss of bone density. This puts menopausal women at higher risk for osteoporosis, a condition in which reduced bone mass makes the bones weak and brittle.

Unfortunately, it isn’t just arthralgia (joint stiffness) that menopausal women have to worry about. Estrogen fluctuations, as previously mentioned, increase joint inflammation. This can result in menopause-related osteoarthritis. And, those who go through early menopause are more likely to develop rheumatoid arthritis.

photo by Kampus Production

 Oestrogen is also responsible for regulating fluid levels in the body; therefore, if levels of this hormone are low, the body becomes less able to hold water, which can affect the hydration and lubrication of the joint tissues, including the cartilage, ligaments and tendons.

Up to 80% of cartilage is water, making it a very important component of this flexible and protective tissue, which acts as a cushion between the bones, absorbing shock and easing friction. Water is also a natural part of synovial fluid, a gel-like liquid which lubricates the cartilage and helps the joints move without creating friction.

Water is also needed to help support the flexibility and elasticity of the ligaments and tendons. Ligaments connect one bone to another and are needed for joint stability, while tendons connect your muscles to the bones. When your ligaments and tendons lose their elasticity, your range and ease of movement can be reduced.

Therefore, without enough water, the flexibility and lubrication of the joint tissues can all be affected. When this protective and supportive nature is impaired, it can cause aches, pains and stiffness to develop.

Not drinking enough water and excessive sweating during menopause can also contribute to dehydration at this time. If you find that you experience joint pain and stiffness more in the morning, then dehydration during the night could be a contributory factor, especially if you are also experiencing night sweats.

Dehydration can also make it difficult for your kidneys to get rid of excess uric acid, which can cause a build-up of tiny, sharp crystals in and around joints, making them inflamed and sore.


Stress, surprisingly, can have a negative effect on your joint health. If you are experiencing a lot of stress, your body will release high quantities of the hormone cortisol. This hormone works as an inflammatory agent when present long-term, and so high levels of stress during menopause will only make your joint pain worse.

Stress can also cause our muscles to tense up; this tension causes our joints to work so much harder which can lead to further inflammation and discomfort. It is important if you tend to experience stress to take time to relax every day.

What Does Joint Pain Feel Like?

Menopausal joint pain usually hits the worst in the morning and eases as the joints loosen up with the day’s activities. Most women complain of back pain, hip pain, neck pain, as well as pain in the jaw, shoulders, and elbows. Wrists and fingers can also be affected.

The pain can be accompanied by stiffness, swelling, or even shooting pain travelling down the back, arms, and legs. Some women report more of a burning sensation, especially after a work-out.

photo by Kindel Media

How can yoga help?

Yoga is a tool we can use to understand and manage the typical symptoms associated with menopause such as stress, physical pain, mood swings or trouble sleeping. As women transition through menopause they may need different yoga practices in different moments. There is Yoga for rest and restoration, yoga to release tension, and yoga to re-energise, and rebuild strength and bone density. Part of a woman’s journey through menopause is becoming better acquainted with her body and fine-tuning her intuitive skills so it is easier to understand clearer what she needs and when.

As well as improving the physical challenges that menopause brings, yoga can also reduce emotional symptoms such as stress, anxiety and overwhelm. For example, restorative and yin yoga is very calming for the nervous system as you stay in a pose for 5-10 minutes, held and supported by the props around you. Yoga Nidra, and breath awareness can help to calm the mind and improve the quality of sleep, especially if there is a tendency to wake up in the night and struggle to fall back to sleep.

There are many different ways Yoga can be supportive through Menopause and also any other big transitions and changes that life throws at us. Yoga can also support with other symptoms that are also associated with getting older in general, such as muscle loss or degeneration of joints and mobility.

photo by Elina Fairytale

While exercising is probably the last thing you want to do when your joints feel achy and sore, staying active is very important as it helps to increase the strength and flexibility of your joints, as well as the muscles that surround the joints.

Weight-bearing postures help protect our bone mineral density as we age and can also help build muscle, which takes the pressure off your joints.

Focusing on strengthening the muscles around the hip and knee joints is extremely beneficial, as this protects these supportive joints.

Gentle-targeted stretching in the yoga postures is great for maintaining mobility and movement, releasing stiffness and discomfort in affected areas.

photo by Kampus Production


Is there anything else that we can do to help?

There is growing evidence that states that our food can increase or decrease inflammatory responses in our bodies. These are some of the foods that can help with inflammation, including menopausal joint pain;

  • Calcium is essential for bone health; found in dark leafy greens, fortified soya products, sardines, broccoli, nuts, and seeds. According to the National Osteoporosis Society, magnesium helps with the metabolism and may maximise calcium absorption, so eat magnesium-rich foods, almonds, peanuts, bananas and avocados.

  • Vitamin C Lovely colourful fruits and leafy green vegetables contain vitamin C, that is important for maintaining bone density and protects against fractures.

  • Vitamin D is Essential for calcium absorption. A study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found vitamin D deficiency may mean your body absorbs only 10 to 15% of the calcium in the food you eat. The best source is sunshine, but we can get some vitamin D from our diet by eating more: oily fish (salmon, sardines, mackerel), eggs mushrooms (especially shitake) fortified cereals, and orange juice.

  • Essential fatty acids may help reduce inflammation in the body. Eat more: oily fish SMASH – salmon, mackerel anchovies, sardines and halibut, linseeds, chia seeds and walnuts.

  • Eat more Anti-inflammatory fruit and vegetables, in particular: blackberries, cherries, pomegranates and blueberries. Leafy dark vegetables such as Swiss chard, spinach, and kale, plus sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage.