At the start of my menopause journey, I remember waking up with a jolt at 4am every morning with really tight and painful lower back muscles.
They were so tense and taut that I thought I had a kidney infection! My other muscles and joints were also tight and stiff after waking up; so much so that I almost had to crawl on all fours just to get to the bathroom. At the time, I was struggling with really bad anxiety and I felt like I was falling apart at the seams. I fell into a destructive cycle of not sleeping because I was anxious and waking up feeling exhausted because I was in pain and hadn’t slept. After realising it was the menopause and eventually starting HRT treatment, my symptoms improved and I was back to my old self.
But as I’m sitting here writing this more than two years on, I can feel that my muscles are quite stiff. I haven’t been stressed or working out particularly hard at the gym and so I can only put it down to being one of those things. Time for a massage!
What Causes Muscle Tension?
Muscle tension during the menopause is caused by fluctuations and depletion of both estrogen and progesterone. Low-levels of estrogen lead to high level of cortisol, the stress-hormone, which raises blood pressure and blood sugar. Extended periods of high cortisol and low estrogen causes muscles to tighten and become fatigued. Low-levels of progesterone also tend to cause muscle tension as progesterone has a calming effect on the body and mind.
My Top Tips
Keeping your body supple with regular stretching and exercise is a great way to get blood flowing and strengthen your muscles, keeping them tension-free!
Use heat pads.
Applying heat to tense muscle areas will get the blood flowing to those areas and help your muscles relax. Leave heat pads on for about 20 minutes for the best relief, and be sure to place a towel between you and the pad to avoid burns.
Take a hot bath.
Like heating pads, hot baths are a great way to relax and loosen up tense muscles. Hot baths can calm your nerves, decreasing tension related to stress and anxiety. I always add Epsom Salts or essential oils to draw the toxins out of my muscles and soothe soreness.
Take vitamin D.
Vitamin D is essential for healthy and tension-free muscles. Sunlight is typically the best way to get your daily dose of Vitamin D, but if you’re living in a cloudy city, you can also find it in some foods like fish and dairy products. If that doesn’t work for you, or you are vegetarian / vegan you can take supplements instead.
Get a massage.
For me, this is the best thing for coping with muscle tension. Experienced and skilled massage therapists can feel where the knots and tensions are in your body, so a good massage is a great way to rid your body of tension!
A good night’s sleep is important as it relaxes both your mind and body. How you sleep can also have an effect on muscle tension. Sleeping with a pillow under your knees if you sleep on your back (or between your knees in you sleep on your side and under your abdomen if you sleep on your stomach) helps keep your spine aligned while you rest. Make sure you sleep with a firm pillow that supports your neck and head to avoid stiffness when you wake up.