Some medical topics don’t get the attention that they should. Often, these discussions are classed as ‘too awkward’ to have, so they don’t occur.
Far too many women, no matter their age, feel nervous or uncomfortable talking about it. So, they suffer painful and unpleasant symptoms in silence. Menopause is a primary example of this.
That’s why it’s so essential for us to open up the conversation.
With a physiotherapist’s help, you can reduce distressing menopausal symptoms and make you feel supported, calmer and happier in yourself.
What is Menopause?
Firstly, what is Menopause? Menopause is defined as the time when your periods stop permanently, and you can no longer fall pregnant naturally.
You will reach menopause if it has been 12 months since your last period (this means no bleeding, including spotting, for 12 months in a row).
The process occurs when your ovaries reduce the production of the female sex hormones oestrogen and progesterone. Menopause is a natural part of ageing, usually between the ages of 45-55, as a woman’s oestrogen levels decline.
In the UK, the average age for a woman to reach menopause is 51. However, it may occur earlier in some women, which could be for several reasons: they may have undergone a total hysterectomy, chemotherapy or radiation therapy. Or, they may have autoimmune diseases, be a smoker, be obese or have Premature Ovarian Insufficiency. All of these factors could affect the age at which menopause occurs.
Perimenopause is the transition period from your reproductive years to menopause, usually lasting about four years. During the perimenopausal phase, your periods may become irregular, lighter, or heavier. However, you can still get pregnant through perimenopause, so you must keep using contraception.
What are the symptoms of menopause?
The possible signs and symptoms of menopause include the following:
– Irregular periods – you may get your periods more frequently or spaced further apart before they stop altogether. You may also bleed more heavily.
– Hot flushes and night sweats – simultaneously, you may have heart palpitations and feel anxious.
– Heightened emotions – including mood swings, anxiety, and poor memory and concentration spells.
– Joint and muscle pain or stiffness
– Difficulty sleeping (insomnia) and tiredness
– Weight gain
– Vaginal symptoms – can include dryness and pain during sex, or you may also have itching and irritation.
– Loss of interest in sex (reduced libido) is due to hormonal changes. It may also occur if you have vaginal symptoms that make you uncomfortable during sex.
– Urinary problems – these symptoms include repeated urinary tract infections, leaking urine and needing to go to the toilet more often.
What can you do to reduce the physical impact of menopause?
There are several techniques to reduce the pain or discomfort of these symptoms. With the help of a physiotherapy expert, you can significantly alleviate the impact that these symptoms have.
A physiotherapist can work with you to:
– Improve your pelvic floor function. Many women experience increased incontinence during the menopausal years. Therefore, it is a good idea to see a pelvic health physiotherapist who will assess your pelvic floor and give you an appropriate exercise programme.
– Exercise – you should aim for 30 minutes of daily exercise. If you haven’t been exercising regularly, start gently and build up gradually. Include regular weight-bearing (carrying your own weight) exercises in your routine, as this will promote good bone health. Exercise will also help you to build and maintain muscle strength, flexibility, and good mental health.
– Manage your weight – find out your appropriate weight, then try to attain and maintain it.
– Keep your bowels healthy. As your oestrogen levels decrease, you are more prone to suffering from constipation, wind, bloating and sometimes IBS-type symptoms. Effectively managing your bowels is one of the best things you can do for your pelvic health. It is essential to ensure that you have adequate water and fibre in your diet. Also, use a toilet stool for good bowel ergonomics and ensure you do regular exercise.
– Improve vaginal dryness – many menopausal women suffer from vaginal dryness, which can be incredibly uncomfortable and cause pain during sex. Use an effective organic lubricant or moisturiser, such as Yes or Sylk. Topical oestrogen can also help. If you continue experiencing pain during sex, see a pelvic health physiotherapist for an assessment.
– Make sure you get adequate sleep and manage your stress or anxiety levels. To achieve this, try whatever works best for you, whether it’s exercise, yoga, mindfulness, meditation, or any other uplifting activity.
– Seek medical advice. Consult your GP, gynaecologist or pelvic health physiotherapist. They can guide you and advise you on how best to manage your symptoms. GPs and gynaecologists can also discuss the pros and cons of HRT, identical bio hormones and topical oestrogen
Fact! Very few women seek advice for menopausal symptoms. Yet, it can be transformative to talk about it and get the appropriate support.
Suppose you are suffering from the symptoms of perimenopause or menopause. In that case, we recommend you book a menopause MOT with a specialist Physiotherapist.
The specialist pelvic health physiotherapist will assess and guide you with education, advice, exercise, and lifestyle modifications. These sessions will empower you to manage your symptoms better.
The MOT includes:
– Thoroughly explore your medical history to find out more about your symptoms. The specialist will evaluate any pain, problems with the pelvic floor, bladder or bowel function, issues with sex, and concerns regarding your general health.
– An internal assessment of your pelvic floor muscles
– An assessment of your core and abdominal control
– An assessment of your general fitness levels and current exercise programme
Treatment may include an individualised pelvic floor programme, abdominal and core strengthening exercises, and a general exercise programme. They may also advise on nutrition, sleep, mental well-being, lifestyle modifications and self-management strategies. Real-Time Ultrasound may also be used to facilitate rehabilitation.
We hope this blog has helped you to understand more about the impact of menopause and see the benefits of getting specialist help. There are lots of fantastic advantages to physiotherapy sessions. Namely, whatever your personal experiences may be, their guidance will help you to get back to normal faster.
No matter your age! Our women’s health team can offer an individualised pelvic floor programme and personal guidance on exercises and lifestyle modifications. The aim is to empower you to manage your menopausal symptoms better and improve your overall quality of life.
September 25th 2019
activecampaign form css span style font-weight Menopause is a natural transition into our later years that all women will experience and it can come with challenges Hot flushes night sweats mood swings brain fog forgetfulness joint pain and vaginal dryness are some symptoms associated with menopause By understanding some common...READ MORE
September 25th 2019
activecampaign form css span style font-weight It s a fact of life that every woman experiences Menopause Menopause affects every woman differently for some no specific treatment is required but for others it can be a challenging time dealing with symptoms such as hot flushes mood swings night sweats and...READ MORE
September 25th 2019
Up to half of all women experience weakness in both the abdominal muscles and pelvic floor muscles after pregnancy and up to a third still have a tummy gap at eight weeks post-birth This can cause instability or poor core strength leading to women developing pelvic or back pain or...READ MORE