Is Physiotherapy Beneficial During the Menopause?
The menopause is a natural part of the ageing process where women stop menstruating and are no longer able to get pregnant naturally. This change typically occurs between the ages of 45 to 55 years old, when the body’s natural production of oestrogen begins to decrease.
The changes experienced during the menopause can have a significant impact on wellbeing and quality of life, making it important to recognise and address the symptoms. Up until relatively recently, the menopause has been somewhat shrouded and not as openly discussed in society as other aspects related to women’s health, such as pregnancy for example. This lack of awareness in the general population regarding the symptoms, both physical and emotional, likely exacerbated the symptoms and changes experienced by women going through the menopause at the time. Thankfully, awareness is growing, and women have improved access to information and are better supported within the workplace and at home during this period of change.
Symptoms Of the Menopause
There are a number of potential symptoms of the menopause – one of the first signs is usually a change to the menstrual cycle; periods may become more frequent, occurring every 2 to 3 weeks before eventually disappearing altogether.
The menopause will be experienced differently by each individual; however, the significant hormonal changes which occur as a result of the menopause can lead to a number of unwelcome changes to women’s health. There are several potential commonly reported symptoms – the majority of women will experience at least one or more of the following:
- Hot sweats and flushes
- Night sweats
- Disturbed sleep/difficulty sleeping
- Slow metabolism
- Vaginal dryness
- Loss of breast fullness
- Low mood/anxiety
- Problems with memory and concentration (brain fog)
- Reduced libido
- Weight gain
- Reduction in bone density
- Joint stiffness
- Aches and pains
- Skin changes
- Recurrent urinary tract infections (UTIs)
- Headaches or migraines
A GP can confirm if a woman is menopausal based on symptoms and a blood test to check the level of hormones.
There are a number of treatment methods available which can improve symptoms, many women find a combination of the following useful during the menopause:
Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT)
HRT is designed to replace the natural hormones of the body which have decreased as a result of the menopause. There are many different types of HRT, and it can be difficult to find the right type of treatment to suit your needs, this is something that can be discussed with a GP. Most women take a combination of the hormones oestrogen and progestogen to protect the womb – women that do not have a womb, can take oestrogen without progestogen. There are several different ways of taking HRT; different methods include, tablets, skin patches, vaginal creams, gels, pessaries, or rings.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)
Some women experience stress and anxiety during the menopause, symptoms often occur at a time in life that many women have additional stresses such as their work, caring for a young family or for elderly parents. CBT for anxiety and stress can play a useful role in developing management strategies for coping with situations and other triggers for stress and anxiety. GPs and other health professionals can provide advice on how to access CBT.
Exercise and Physiotherapy
Women’s health physiotherapists are specialists in treating menopausal symptoms to help women through this difficult phase of their lives. An evaluation with a specialist physiotherapist in women’s health will typically involve discussing specific symptoms, evaluating pelvic floor health and general mobility and posture, as well as discussing hormone management, sleep quality, hydration, and nutrition. Based on the evaluation, a specific treatment program will be devised to help maintain the body in peak condition. General exercise and targeted exercises can help to restore strength all over the body helping to improve wellbeing.
Conditions Physiotherapy Can Help With:
Muscular aches and pains
During the menopause many women feel aches and pains, as well as a loss of strength. Targeted physiotherapy and massage therapy can help to reduce these symptoms and improve overall strength and fitness.
Pelvic Floor Weakness
The menopause can cause weakening of the pelvic floor muscles, leading to urinary or bowel incontinence, or organ prolapse. Physiotherapy with specific pelvic floor strengthening exercises, can strengthen and maintain the pelvic floor muscles intact, helping to prevent incontinence or prolapse.
Stress and Anxiety
Specific exercise sequences and mindful exercises such as yoga, Pilates and meditation can help to relieve stress, tension, aches, and pains. Yoga and Pilates are also highly constructive exercises which help to improve general fitness, build strength and flexibility, and are combined with meditative breathing techniques. This can also help to strengthen a weak pelvic floor.
Some post-menopausal women experience changes to their bone density, the decrease of oestrogen can cause bones to become less dense and more brittle, increasing the risk of the development of osteoporosis. Targeted physiotherapy can help to strengthen the surrounding tissue structures and improve overall fitness.
We offer a wide range of physiotherapy services including women’s health physiotherapy – our staff are highly experienced and use research-based treatments which are proven to be valid and effective. For more information on our services, get in touch today.