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Remedies for Menopausal Symptoms
The Menopause Self Help Book
by Susan M. Lark, M.D.,
ACHING JOINTS & MUSCLE PROBLEMS
Joint pain can begin before menopausal years and become more troublesome during these years. It is thought that more than half of all postmenopausal women experience varying degrees of joint pain. Knee, elbow and shoulder joint pains are most frequently experienced, while aching in hips, lower back, or wrists often signal deeper distresses such as worsening osteoporosis, kidney weakness or immune system dysfunction.31
The cumulative effect of decades of use is one factor that leads to degenerative changes in joints. Osteoarthritis, the most common form of arthritis, results primarily from a progressive degeneration of cartilage glycosaminoglycans (GAGs). This damage is compounded by a decreased ability to repair joint structures as we age and may also reflect nutritional status.20
It is not wise to ignore these aches and pains. Early treatment can often bring about a cure and prevent further development of arthritis. Injection of cortisone into an acutely affected joint will sometimes offer prompt relief, but this may harm the immune system and may not work at all. The same may be said of gold injections.31
Getting plenty of rest, using herbal aids as needed to ensure deep restorative sleep, eating nutritious foodspredominantly fresh, preferably organic, fruits and vegetablesand avoiding known toxins and stimulants are healthy strategies that will help minimize muscle and joint pain in your menopausal years. Give your body a fighting chance!
NSAIDS (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) such as aspirin and ibuprofen may be regarded as helpful in the short term. This standard drug therapy suppresses pain and inflammation but has been found to promote progression of the arthritic disease process by inhibiting GAG (glycosaminoglycan) synthesis and cartilage repair, and accelerating cartilage destruction.3, 2, 22, 27, 28, 20 In addition, drugs may stimulate osteoporosis and suppress the immune system.
Glucosamine Sulfate (GLS): It has been found that this supplement may offer effective treatment by serving as a building block for GAGs (glycosaminoglycans), promoting the incorporation of sulfur into cartilage.20 Numerous double blind studies have found GLS produces better results than standard drug therapy in the treatment of arthritis and pain in weight-bearing joints.25, 10, 26, 24.
It appears the sulfur in GLS may be critical to the beneficial effects noted. Sulfur is an essential nutrient for joint tissue where it functions in the stabilization of the connective tissue matrix of cartilage, tendons and ligaments.20
When comparing glucosamine sulfate to cartilage extracts, it has been observed that these compounds differ in their degree of purity and effectiveness in osteoarthritis. Chondroitin sulfate is composed of very large molecules, and has an absorption rate of between 0 and 8%, compared to a 98% absorption rate for glucosamine sulfate.21, 18
Contentions that N-acetyl-glucosamine (NAG) is better absorbed, more stable. and better utilized than GLS are without support in the scientific literature, which in fact, reports just the opposite.7, 15, 29, 5. There has never been a double-blind study using NAG for any application nor have there ever been any detailed absorption studies on NAG in humans.21
Another form of glucosamine presently being marketed is glucosamine hydrochloride (HCl). As with NAG (N-acetyl-glucosamine) the research does not support the use of glucosamine hydrochloride.8, 15.
The standard dose for glucosamine sulfate is 500 mg three times per day. Obese individuals may need higher dosages based on their body weight (20 mg/kg body weight/day).21
Anti-inflammatory herbs: There are herbs rich in salicylates and/or sterols that may be used just as effectively as their drug counterparts aspirin and cortisone for pain relief and as anti-inflammatories. Unlike aspirin and cortisone, the herbs dont produce side effects when used carefully. Also unlike drugs, herbs provide bone-building minerals, immune-strengthening micronutrients, and endocrine-nourishing glycosides.
Salicylates found in the bark, buds and leaves of willows, birches, true wintergreen, poplars, and black haw have been used for centuries to help ease inflammatory pain.31
Sterols are fatty substances composed of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen. Bile, sex and adrenal hormones and even vitamin D contain sterol. Sterols found in the roots of many plants such as wild yam, sarsaparilla, ginseng (Panax), black cohosh, poke and devils club have been found to help ease sore joints.31
Phytosterols (phyto = plant) are found only in plants. Interestingly, says the Mayo Clinic, they can be naturally present in the diet in amounts almost equal to cholesterol; however, they differ in structure and shape from cholesterol. Unlike dietary cholesterol, phytosterols seem to have some health-promoting effects.
Peruvian Bark contains alkaloids including quinine and has been found very useful in prevention of leg cramps, especially at night. Leg cramps in postmenopausal women are often reported by practitioners.33 The main causes have been found to be the use of tobacco and inactivity of the legs. Attention to calcium/magnesium intake is important, and often a pharmaceutical form of quinine is prescribed and found to be helpful. Using the herb Peruvian Bark is much safer than quinine and is more effective, although using very large doses over an extended period of time is not recommended.35
Yellow dock root: For restless legs (often a symptom of anemia), try 10-20 drops of tincture daily.31
Alginates from brown seaweed or kelp are used to treat painful joints resulting from strontium, barium, cadmium and radium poisoning. Alginates bind tightly to these toxins allowing them to pass harmlessly out of the body, for example, cows are often fed alginate that binds with strontium 90 which is then excreted. Alginate is a good treatment for "ouch-ouch" disease (yes, that's its real name) which is found in Japan and is due to poisoning by cadmium-containing water used to irrigate rice fields. Its major symptom? Painful joints.12
Black currant bud macerate is an anti-inflammatory found to be a wonderful ally for postmenopausal women with arthritis, rheumatism, allergies, headaches, and persistent hot flashes. A 30-50 drop dose may be used up to three times a day.31
Essential oils: A warm footbath with a few drops of the essential oil of peppermint or rosemary right before bed may help. Or perhaps a bath to which valerian has been added. Black haw or St. Johns wort helps prevent and relieve muscle cramps.31
In addition to herbal remedies, visualization, swimming in warm water, moxibustion or acupuncture may help greatly for aching joints. A more modern equivalent of acupuncture is transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS).31
Diet: Often the elimination of certain foods such as the following will help greatly:
Garden sage leaf infusion or tincture is said to prevent joint aches and improve circulation. Note: Do not use excessively or if you have dry mouth or very dry vaginal tissues.31
EFAs: Essential fatty acids have anti-inflammatory properties. A spoonful of fresh flax seed or evening primrose oil several times a day may relieve pain within a few days, and regular use helps prevent aching joints.
Ginger baths, soaks, and compresses may bring soothing, warm relief to sore and aching joints.31
Researched and written by Joan McPhee, MH, WT, 2000
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