If you are in menopause, have you noticed that in addition to the hot flashes, night sweatsand mood swings, you also feel much more pain? It’s not just your imagination. A new study has found that women with symptoms of menopause are nearly twice as likely to have chronic pain diagnoses, such as fibromyalgia, migraineand Back ache.
“chronic pain is a huge problem in the United States, but not much attention is paid to the fact that it is particularly acute for middle-aged women,” says author Carolyn Gibson, PhD, clinical researcher psychologist with the San Francisco VA Medical Center.
She analyzed the medical records of more than 200,000 female military veterans for the study, published in Menopause: The Journal of the North American Menopause Society (NAMS). “Many women go through a difficult period at menopause, and we found that those most affected by these symptoms were much more likely to have chronic pain.”
The relationship between menopause and increased pain levels is not well understood, says NAMS executive director JoAnn Pinkerton, MD, professor of obstetrics and gynecology and director of quarantine health at the Health System. health from the University of Virginia. “Estrogen and other hormones have complex interactions with pain sensitivity,” she says. “But whether you develop chronic pain for the first time or have flare-ups of a pre-existing condition, these changes hormone the levels affect both the symptoms of chronic pain and how you experience it.”
Other symptoms and “side effects” of menopause can also make chronic pain worse, including:
This rise in chronic pain puts postmenopausal women at risk for pain addiction medications such as opioids, says Pinkerton. She advises women to seek treatment from a team of experts including a menopause specialist who understands the effect of hormonal fluctuations on pain and avoids opioids.
“They should focus on other therapies like nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, heat treatment, electronic stimulation, and prescription drugs like gabapentin (Neurontin), which interferes with pain reception but is not addictive,” she says.
“Don’t suffer in silence,” Gibson says. “Even if the symptoms cannot be completely resolved, they can still be much improved.” About 42% of women in a national survey say they have never discussed menopausal symptoms with a doctor. Choose to speak.
Pinkerton suggests ways to manage chronic pain in menopause:
- Practice relaxation techniques. Try yoga and mindfulness meditation.
- Stay active. “Even on days when you’re in pain, set yourself minimum activity goals, like walking 3,000 steps a day,” says Pinkerton. “If you sit on the couch, you become deconditioned and the pain gets worse.”
- Say no sometimes. Stress increases your perception of pain. There is nothing wrong with saying no to this additional committee or project if it adds unnecessary stress.
- Protect your sleep. Lack of sleep makes pain worse, and research has shown that making sleep a priority leads to longer and better sleep, even for people with chronic pain. Limit caffeine and alcohol in the evening, turn off those bright screens and keep the bedroom cool and dark.
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