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Strength Beyond Change: Empowerment in Menopause Management

As a society, we are under-educated about menopause management and how women's bodies change during menopause. If you’re menopausal, post-menopausal (after menopause), or even peri-menopausal (shortly before menopause), it can feel like you’re getting to know a new body. This can feel scary or daunting as we try to navigate these new changes! So, let’s navigate this journey together! 

 

Menopause and Common Symptoms 

Let’s quickly review what menopause is. Menopause is the time when a female does not have a period for at least 12 months. On average, this occurs at age 51. While there is a myriad of symptoms that can occur, common symptoms associated with menopause and after menopause can include: 

  • Brain fog, decreased concentration, and poor sleep quality 
  • Hot flashes and night sweats 
  • Joint pain and decreased bone health (including osteoporosis and osteopenia) 
  • Increased cardiovascular disease and metabolic changes 
  • Sexual dysfunction and pelvic floor disorders 

Of particular importance is bone health. Osteoporosis and osteopenia are metabolic bone diseases characterized by low bone mass, impaired bone quality, and increased likelihood of low-trauma fractures.  Low-trauma fractures are fractures that occur from a fall from standing height or lower, rather than a fall from a height or from an accident. 

 

Why is this a big deal?

Why does bone density matter? If we have low bone mass and we fall on our hands, hips, or knees, it can be challenging to recover if it results in a fracture. Studies have shown that hip fracture in adults over 65 is a risk factor for mortality vs. adults over 65 with no hip fracture. So, we want to make our bones as strong as possible! 

 

What can I do?

As you’re reading, you might be thinking, “What a depressing blog post. Where’s the good news?!” Or you might be thinking, “What if I’m already post-menopausal, is there anything I can do?” Fortunately, there are many things you can do to set yourself up for success no matter where you are in the lifespan! 

There are three major categories to consider when we think about either preventing menopausal system changes or improving existing conditions: 

  1. Medication and supplement management
  2. Diet
  3. Exercise

 

Medication/Supplement Management

A good place to start is by talking to your primary care physician about medications or supplements to manage your bone density, such as hormone replacement therapy and bone building medications. If you have not had a bone density scan (DEXA scan), your doctor will likely order one to determine your level of bone loss before ordering medications or supplements. 

 

Diet

It is also recommended to talk to your doctor or a nutritionist about a diet that can help with prevention of bone loss. You will need to make sure your diet contains an adequate amount of vitamins, minerals, and protein. This is especially important for rebuilding bone as a response to strength training exercises. 

 

Exercise

When it comes to exercise, there are three primary types of movement to facilitate bone health: 

  1. Progressive resistance training 
  2. High-velocity power training 
  3. Weight-bearing impact training 

 

Progressive resistance training

For progressive resistance training, think “lift heavy and hard.” This could include weighted squats and deadlifts, pushups, weighted overhead presses, etc. All of these exercises can be modified to fit your current level of strength and fitness. For example, weighted squats could be performed as a sit to stand, and pushups could be performed against a wall or countertop. 

 

High-velocity power training

For high-velocity power training, think “quick and explosive,” such as jump squats and snatches. This kind of exercise can also be modified to fit your current level of fitness or mobility. For example, a jump squat could be performed as a "stomp" to a sit to stand. The specific exercise depends on which bones you are trying to strengthen!

 

Weight-bearing impact training

Weight bearing impact training is any activity where impact is placed on the bones, which stimulates growth of increased bone density. Walking, running, stair climbing and pickleball would be examples of weight bearing impact training.

 

Now what?

We're here to help! Our doctors of physical therapy are trained to assess joint limitations, joint pain and muscular strength to help you follow a program to minimize the effects of aging and maximize bone density. We can assist with coming up with a strengthening program that address all three categories of exercise that is tailored to your current ability level and your goal ability level.

 

Start feeling better today! Request an appointment with one of our skilled Doctors of Physical Therapy to get started with menopause management today.

 

More questions? Give us a call at (479) 442-7473. Check out our Instagram more more helpful tips!

 

Interested in learning more?

Check out this article for more tips on diet and exercise.

Gabi

Written by Gabrielle Back-Kremers, PT, DPT and Leah Thompson, PT, DPT 

 

 

 

Photo by Limor Zellermayer on Unsplash
Leah Thompson