Why do my joints hurt during periods?

A woman having joint pain during period

Women may experience various physical and emotional challenges during menstruation. Pain in the lower abdomen is one of the most common problems that a lot of women face during menstruation. Bloating, breast tenderness, mood swings, irritability, fatigue and joint are also common symptoms. Joint pain may happen due to hormonal fluctuations, inflammation or a health condition. Read on to know the factors that can lead to joint ache during period, and home remedies you can try.

What are the causes of joint ache during period?

Joint ache during menstruation or menstruation-related joint pain is a lesser-known symptom of menstruation, says obstetrician and gynaecologist Dr Neha Khandelwal.

Hormones may cause joint pain during period. Image courtesy: Freepik

Several factors may contribute to joint pain during period:

1. Hormonal fluctuations

A 2020 research published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health revealed that changing hormones (estrogen and progesterone) often make joints hurt before or during menstruation. Changes in hormone levels, particularly estrogen and progesterone, during the menstrual cycle can affect fluid retention and inflammation in the body, potentially contributing to joint pain.

2. Prostaglandins

They are hormone-like substances known for playing a key role in inflammation as well as pain. Higher levels of prostaglandins, which are released during menstruation to trigger uterine contractions, may also affect joints and contribute to pain, says the expert.

3. Inflammation

Menstruation can trigger an inflammatory response in your body before or during period. This may exacerbate joint pain in women who are prone to inflammation.

4. Endometriosis

Endometriosis is a condition where tissue similar to the uterus’ lining, grows outside it. This can cause pelvic pain and inflammation that may be felt in the joints during menstruation.

5. Autoimmune disorders

Some autoimmune conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis or lupus, can cause joint pain. This may be exacerbated during menstruation due to hormonal fluctuations and increased inflammation.

6. Nutritional deficiencies

Nutrients such as magnesium or vitamin D play a role in bone and joint health. In case of deficiencies in these nutrients, it may cause joint pain during menstruation.

Stages of menstrual cycle and joint pain

Joint pain in relation to the menstrual cycle particularly happens in the days leading up to menstruation (the premenstrual phase) and during menstruation itself, says the expert. Here’s how it typically aligns with the stages of the menstrual cycle:

1. Premenstrual phase (late luteal phase)

In the late luteal phase of the menstrual cycle, which occurs in the days leading up to menstruation, estrogen and progesterone levels decline rapidly. This hormonal shift can contribute to increased inflammation and joint pain in some women. Joint pain during this phase may be associated with fluid retention and changes in the body’s response to inflammation.

2. Menstrual phase

During the menstrual phase, women may also experience joint pain. Prostaglandins, which are chemicals involved in inflammation and pain, are released during menstruation to help the uterus contract and shed its lining.
These prostaglandins can also affect nearby tissues, potentially leading to increased sensitivity and pain in the joints, says Dr Khandelwal.

How long does the joint pain last?

The duration of joint pain related to the menstrual cycle can vary widely among women and may depend on several factors, including individual hormone levels, underlying health conditions, and overall pain sensitivity. Generally, it lasts for a few days to a week. Period-related joint pain is considered a temporary symptom that typically resolves once hormone levels stabilise post-menstruation. However, if joint pain persists beyond the menstrual cycle or becomes chronic, it may be indicative of an underlying condition such as arthritis or fibromyalgia, which would require further evaluation and treatment.

A woman using heating pad to manage joint pain during period
Apply heat to affected joints to get relief from pain. Image courtesy: Freepik

How to manage menstrual-related joint pain?

You can manage joint pain by doing the following:

  • Apply heat or ice packs to affected joints to provide relief
  • Engage in gentle stretching or low-impact exercises like walking to help reduce stiffness and improve joint mobility
  • Maintain a balanced diet and stay hydrated to support overall joint health
  • Limit or avoid foods that can promote inflammation, such as processed foods, sugary snacks, and too much of caffeine
  • Maintain a healthy weight through regular exercise and a balanced diet to reduce excess stress on your joints
  • A physical therapist can also recommend specific exercises and techniques to improve joint mobility and reduce pain.

Make sure to discuss your symptoms and treatment preferences with your doctor for managing menstrual-related joint pain effectively.

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