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Managing perimenopause: Orthopedic issues

Jen Klein is a New England-based technical writer and mother of three. When she isn't asking her kids to stop bickering, "caramelizing" the dinner or actively ignoring the dust bunnies under the couch, she enjoys knitting, gardening, pho...

Oh those aches and pains

Your joints may be achier, your muscles tighter, you may just feel a little more rickety. If you've been particularly active most of your life, this may be a frustrating feeling. Maybe you vowed never to slow down, to always stay strong and fast - but you just can't. How much of it age, how much of it is fallout from perimenopause and menopause? Yes, perimenopause and menopause. Yet another symptom of that significant change of life

Woman wtih achesA slowing down, and maybe a little stiffening up, is often associated with aging - and certainly some of it is a function of "simply" aging. But some orthopedic symptoms of age may be complicated by the hormonal variations of perimenopause and perimenopause. Some of this you may have to accept; but with some advance awareness, you may be able help mitigate some symptoms.

Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis is the the loss of bone density and thinning of bone tissue over time - and it starts long before you have any symptoms. Advanced osteoporosis may mean bones break easily, a loss of height and a stooped appearance, and spinal pain .

While both men and women may experience osteoporosis, the dramatic decrease of estrogen in a woman's body puts her at greater risk for osteoporosis as she ages (and at earlier ages than for men). And if you have any family history of osteoporosis, you need to have early conversations with your doctor about awareness and treatment. You need to have a plan.

You may be able to mitigate the effects of osteoporosis with a high-calcium diet, resistance exercise, hormone replacement therapy, or even special medications. And sometimes you may just need to learn to be more careful and less of a risk-taker.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Carpal Tunnel syndrome is a group of symptoms that occur in your wrists and hands that may include swelling, tingling, pain and loss of strength. Tendons and nerves pass through a small tunnel - the carpal tunnel - and swelling in this anatomical area can trigger the symptoms. Sometimes (though not always accurately) referred to as a repetitive stress injury, women in the perimenopause years are at higher risk of developing carpal tunnel symptoms.

To prevent or mitigate permanent damage, it's important to involve your doctor if you start to experience carpal tunnel symptoms. While repetitive motions may not be the main cause of some carpal tunnel symptoms, not performing repetitive motion tasks, or doing so smartly (ergonomically, with appropriate breaks, doing specific exercises) may help the symptoms. wrist splints, physical therapy or medication may also be needed; in extreme cases, surgery may be necessary.

If you thought perimenopause and menopause was "just" the end of your reproductive years, you may be disheartened to hear about the other symptoms and effects of this change of life. Many other women are right there with you. The good news is that with the collective sigh comes collective wisdom - and a whole lot of compassion and maybe some commiseration. We may all have to go through it, whether we like it or not, so why not go through it smartly - and hopefully with a greater understanding of what to expect, how to handle it...and a sense of humor.

For more information on managing the symptoms of menopause, read Three steps to reduce the symptoms of menopause without medication.

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