Menopause – the best time of your life?
The menopause is a natural transition yet often it is misdiagnosed as anxiety or depression. We often struggle on without help and underestimate how early it can affect us.
As an osteopath patients present with muscle and joint ache and possibly weakness but they go on to describe how they are generally ‘falling apart’. They report feeling irritable, anxious, depressed, tired and are battling with brain fog, along with other apparently unrelated symptoms, eg. hair loss, itchy skin, headaches, weight gain etc. But without the renowned ‘hot flashes or sweats’ they may not suspect menopause.
Plus, aside from these obvious symptoms there are also the possible ‘silent effects’ of menopause such as cardiovascular disease and a decrease in bone density that can lead to osteoporosis.
But it doesn’t have to be like this! Menopause can be a very positive phase in a woman’s life.
It is NOT an ‘old lady thing’!
You are officially post-menopausal 1 year after your periods have stopped which is typically any time in your 40’s or 50’s, 51 being the average age in the UK.
However, all the symptoms we associate with ‘the menopause’ are experienced prior to this point, the ‘Perimenopause’. This can start any time between your mid 30’s to mid-50’s, usually lasting 4-8 years.
Premature (before 40) and early menopause (before 45) can occur naturally or due to reproductive surgical procedures (that affect hormone production) and 1 in 100 will reach full menopause before the age of 40.
So what can we do?…Take charge!
Exercise: Good for stress relief; controlling weight gain; preventing pelvic floor weakness with specific exercises; preventing bone depletion/osteoporosis with medium to high impact exercise (jogging, walking, weight training, dancing, sports); improving heart health with cardio exercise (anything that increases your heart rate for at least 10 mins at a time, preferably 30 mins of moderate per day) and improving sleep.
Physical treatment- osteopathic and other manual therapies can help alleviate aching muscles and joints, decrease stress and improve circulation and wellness. We can also advise on posture, exercise and lifestyle to aid your peri/menopause journey.
Relaxation: Stress can increase symptom severity so get regular ‘down time’ such as: yoga, meditation, country walks, reading or coffee with a friend.
Sleep: create the best chance for a good night sleep with a cool bedroom, light breathable clothing and a calm, screen-free pre-bed routine to wind down.
Support: Talk to your GP, partner, friends and work colleagues about your symptoms. People will be more understanding of a (temporarily) tired, irritable, brain fogged and lacking in confidence ‘you’ if they know the reasons behind it
HRT: Gels, patches, creams, pills? Standard or body identical hormones? A life saver for many and those experiencing early menopause (unless there are contraindications relating to breast cancer) However, only to be considered through an experienced medical professional, preferably a Menopause specialist, so your full medical history can be considered.
Diet: a wealth of information is out there to help prevent weight gain, keep heart and bones healthy, reduce hot flashes by avoiding trigger foods and so on.
There is hope, and lots of it!
Perimenopause and menopause can be hard, challenging and feel like a mountain to climb. But it can also be empowering, freeing and give you a whole new perspective on life. You may even feel like the best ever you, on the other side!