Menopause and Perimenopause: What Can Physiotherapy Help with?
First of all, menopause is not a disease or illness but the natural stage in a woman’s life when she stops having menstrual periods. This happens when the ovaries no longer release an egg each month and the production of the hormone oestrogen declines. This usually occurs between the ages of 45-55 but can be earlier, either naturally, after surgery to remove the ovaries, or following certain treatments.
The perimenopause or menopausal transition refers to the period before the menopause. It may be when you first start to experience menopausal symptoms due to hormone changes, but are still having periods. For some women the perimenopause may only last a few months, but for others it can be several years.
The reduced levels of oestrogen can lead to different symptoms and physiotherapy can help to manage several of them:
Urinary (urge) incontinence also known as an overactive bladder is one of the most common effects of menopause which relates to the inability to properly control urine flow. This can result in urinary leakage due to the weakening of the pelvic floor muscles. Physiotherapy treatment for this problem includes pelvic floor exercises, that aim at strengthening the pelvic muscles to reduce urinary frequency or urgency.
Osteopenia & Osteoporosis:
During menopause bones can gradually become less dense and weaker over time, as a result of loss of tissue due to the hormonal changes in the body. Physiotherapy can help with exercises such as resistance training and weight training, which can help to strengthen the muscles and bones, in turn, improving bone density and helping to cope with the load.
Obesity, insomnia and hot flashes:
Physiotherapy can play an important role in treating obesity, insomnia and hot flashes. A physiotherapy treatment plan can include aerobic exercises, stretches and therapeutic massage, to help control these symptoms and improve quality of sleep. A combination of high-intensity interval training and weight training in the case of obesity, can aid with weight reduction.
Muscle, Joint pains and aches:
Physiotherapists prescribe specific exercises which aim at improving the muscle strength and control around joints. This results in decreased load on the joint itself, which in turn can help in reducing pain. Following a comprehensive assessment, your physiotherapist will often prescribe specific exercises aimed at muscle strengthening, mobility and relaxation.
Physiotherapy and Menopause Symptoms
Very few women seek advice for menopausal symptoms, this may be because they feel nothing can be done and that it is just a ‘natural part of ageing’ and have been told just to get on with it. However, if you are suffering from the symptoms of perimenopause or menopause, did you know you can book a menopause MOT at our clinic?
Your Women’s Health Physiotherapist will perform a thorough assessment focused on your individual needs and problems. This will help then to guide you in terms of education, advice, exercise, and lifestyle modifications. These sessions can empower you to manage your symptoms better and to improve your feeling of health and well-being.
In the meanwhile here are some helpful tips to put into practice.
Focus on your pelvic floor
They are the muscle group that are responsible for some pretty important functions like, bowel & bladder control and better sex, as well as managing and preventing prolapse.
A few times per day, try to gently contract your pelvic floor muscles, 10 times and aim for 10 seconds each time. These are the muscles that stop the flow of urine. If in doubt consult your Women’s Health Physiotherapist.
Happy Bowel Movements
Your knees need to be higher than your hips. When your knees are higher than your hips it is like unkinking a water slide. Use a small stool or similar to rest your feet on when sitting on the toilet.
Have patience, take your time.
Don’t push in the traditional way. If you strain, it is like squeezing toothpaste from the top, it makes it more difficult to empty your bowels completely. Straining is also a risk factor in the development of prolapse, if you strain regularly, talk to your GP or Women’s Health Physio.
Keep an eye on your diet and hydration levels and if in doubt speak to your GP about other options for you ie. Stool softeners.
Ask for support
Talk to your friends, mother, sisters and aunties. Keep asking even if that is not your natural style, we need to talk more about Women’s Health needs.
Speak to your GP, it will not be the first time they have helped someone deal with menopause related issues.
Speak to your Women’s Health Physiotherapist, who are trained to help with many peri and post-menopausal symptoms.
Check out the menopause charity website – The Menopause Charity – Menopause Facts, Advice and Support