Flying Up the Stairs: Menopausal Arthritis (and a Book Giveaway!)

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Phyllis Two

A post by Phyllis Rickel-Wong, author of  Flying Up the Stairs!  What You Need to Know About Menopausal Arthritis to Break Free:

I am not quite sure when exactly the change happened.

No, not “The Change,” but rather the change in my body’s physical strength!

Right around menopause, though, my body was undergoing subtle changes that I was not aware of; hence, the reason that I did not take action then to correct them.

At one point in perimenopause, I had been walking for hours nearly each day (in an attempt to lose weight through the “calories in – calories out” rule).That is, any calories consumed by me such as a heaping plateful of spaghetti topped with bolognese sauce, I would then work off through a couple of intense hours of very fast walking.

This was precisely calculated to burn off my guilty culinary pleasures!

Well, the calories in – calories out equation didn’t work.

Not only did I not lose weight this way, but I also was not really exercising my body in a way that would bring strength to the muscles in my legs and feet, and knees and ankle joints. You might be wondering how can this be, and I’ll explain shortly.

It was sometime a few years later, right around menopause, when I began to discover that something was wrong.

I simply began to stumble and fall on more than one occasion without warning!

The last time this happened, I had turned around to enthusiastically wave goodbye to family as I descended a small sloping sidewalk. Turning front to continue walking to our car, I went instead careening through the air! I sailed right into their yard, and landed squarely in a hedge of rose bushes!

So, this brings me to the actual topic of my post, and that is “menopausal arthritis,” or the joint pain that is associated with the menopause!

It turns out that the supportive athletic shoes and the incredibly comfortable clogs that I was wearing didn’t allow my muscles to really work! Weakened muscles led to a gait that produced knee pain, and what I thought was arthritis! Also, my inability to lose weight, was related to a changed metabolism that is actually associated with developing osteoarthritis!

My husband, a martial arts master, developed a program of exercises to strengthen my muscles and tendons, and I began to use many anti-inflammatory foods, herbs, and supplements.

After healing from my own “menopausal arthritis” (and, indeed achieving a body strong enough to “fly up the stairs!”) I wrote my book so that others might not have to go through what I had in menopause and after. I hope that if you are experiencing joint pain associated with the menopause that my book will help you become pain-free!

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GIVEAWAY: Phyllis has kindly offered one Friend for the Ride reader a copy of her book, Flying Up the Stairs! What You Need to Know About Menopausal Arthritis to Break Free. For a chance to win, enter a comment by June 30. U.S. and Canada only. Thanks!

Phyllis Rickel-Wong is a researcher and writer in the fields of health, medicine, and psychology. She has a long-standing interest in alternative and complementary medicine, and more recently, integrative medicine. She received her Bachelor’s Degree from the University of Michigan, and her Master’s Degree in Developmental Psychology from San Francisco State University.

Ms. Rickel-Wong is currently writing a series of books to address physical and psychological health in menopause, of which “Flying Up the Stairs!” is her first. Through her work base and company, Transforming Menopause, Inc. in San Ramon, CA, she hopes to help women transform the experience of menopause into a “Welcomed Change!”

Photo of Phyllis: The photo credit goes to Herb Wong (Phyllis’ s husband) who had to assume a somewhat “supine” position in the landing of the Walnut Creek Library’s stairs to compensate for their lack of a sophisticated camera lens that would have rendered him a whole lot less amusing to library  patrons.

 

35 responses »

  1. Wow……this is wonderful! I definitely am experiencing this to a degree and would love to read your book!! I prefer alternative therapies and would very much embrace your suggestions. I also need to up my exercise. Thank you for this post!

    • Hi Judy, thank you for your appreciative words! I too really prefer alternative therapies and have found some that are really working for me – including supplements such as Zyflamend, TurmericForce (curcumin), and many others that I talk about. I have found that for exercise, really working on strengthening the muscles and tendons together and all of the muscles in each whole muscle “chain” is key!

  2. Thank you for your post! I had never heard of menopause arthritis and changes in metabolism linked to osteoarthritis. I’ll bet this is going on with my body, too. Another change that I’ve experienced is muscle tightness. Yoga has helped me counteract it a bit but it’s a constant struggle.

    • Hi Susan, that some forms of arthritis could be linked to metabolic problems common to menopause was quite an eye-opener for me! But, lessening the inflammation that results has made all the difference in the world! Muscle tightness is such a common and persistent problem in menopause. In fact, I found that stiff or “shortened” muscles can pull on tendons and cause irritation which can lead to joint pain. Working on the stiffness through gentle stretches daily (and, in fact, at times throughout the day!) seems to really help. And, if you condition your muscles and tendons together, they become stronger and less likely to become stiff.

  3. Would love to win this. I woke just last night with such severe knee pain that I got up to ice it. I often find it takes a few seconds to get my joints moving when I have been sitting for a long period of time. I want to fly again.

    • Hi Sandy, once in a while, I wake up in the middle of the night with knee pain, too. In my case, it was because I over-used or pulled too much on a muscle or tendon during the day. I found some really good ointments/creams, such as Traumeel, and others that I talk about to help with this particular problem. Of course, many different things can cause knee pain, so it’s important to find out what is causing your pain. I hope you fly again, too!

  4. Maybe at 60+ there is always pain in the morning. Sitting at my computer or for the car trips I used to enjoy is also a killer. I will have to buy this book. Thank you, Barbara, for arranging for this excellent post by Phyllis.

    • Hi Irene, thank you so much for your kind and appreciative words! I know what you mean about car trips and sitting at the computer. Even a couple-hour car ride can make my knees hurt (especially if I’m caught in bumper-to-bumper traffic using the brake pedal a lot!) What I found was that when my muscles are in shortened or immobile positions like in the car or at the computer, that stiffness can occur. The key for me in preventing this is the conditioning and strengthening of muscles and tendons as “whole” complete, connected parts of the body that work together.

    • Hi Michele, the focus in my book is on working and conditioning whole muscle “chains.” Posture is so important as one of the keys in preventing menopausal arthritis! I find, so often, that women tend to lean forward as they walk. This unevenly distributed weight affects the joints, muscles, and other areas of the body, and doesn’t allow the muscles to function properly.

  5. Sounds like a great first in a series of wonderful books. I know if I don’t exercise, preferably ride my bike daily my knees hurt more. Old knees !

    • Hi Haralee, thank you very much! I’m excited about my next book which is on mood problems and anxiety issues in menopause. I am glad that you’ve found an activity you like that seems to keep your knees from hurting as much. Just one caution about cycling: In one study, heavy physical levels of work, such as digging and cycling, were associated with the risk of developing knee osteoarthritis. Nevertheless, in another study, group stationary cycling was associated with improvement in pain scores on walking for people with mild to moderate knee osteoarthritis. Listening to your body, and of course consultation with many types of health care professionals can all be important to keep knees from becoming “old.” Knees are amazing joints, and they will last a long time if approached with nourishment, conditioning, and good body mechanics!

  6. Very interesting concepts. My own discomfort is age related rather than menopause related.In fact I would be happy to have the strength and well being that I had at 75. It’s been confirmed by those in traditional medicine and those in alternative medicine, that there are no or few specific exercises for the back. It’s important to exercise to keep the rest of your body strong to ease the stress on the back. I’m into aqua exercise now, to strengthen the joints and muscles. Seems to help. Would love to receive your book

    • Hello! In a very recent 2014 review of scientific research studies looking at how effective aquatic exercise is for musculoskeletal conditions, the study showed some encouraging results: Moderate beneficial effects on pain and physical function and quality of life, and comparable effects with land-based exercise. Good news! I will be obtaining that article to take a closer look at these new findings. And, balneotherapy shows promise, too. In several experimental studies that I found, mineral-rich mudpacks or balneotherapy had beneficial effects (such as improvement in pain and physical mobility) that the “control” groups that didn’t receive the treatments did not. I hope I’m as active as you are when I’m your age!

    • Hi, please don’t take this information as a reason to worry! Instead, if anything like this might become part of your menopausal experience, I hope you’ll have the information so as to worry less! The goal is an easier, smoother, physically vibrant menopause! No worries!

  7. I am blessed to have a research doctor in my family. He assures me I must constantly be eating orange foods to keep my symptoms at bay and my bones strong.
    I have noticed occasional joint and muscle pain…

    • Hi Doreen, thank you for sharing your experiences, and I am so glad that you brought up the importance of foods in staying healthy and promoting health. In terms of your comment about “orange foods,” I had just come across a very interesting research article. It was found that even just a moderate increase in the carotenoid “b-cryptoxanthin” (equivalent to just one glass per day of freshly squeezed orange juice) is associated with less risk of developing inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis. For the people within this research, their dietary intake of this carotenoid resulted mainly from consuming oranges, orange juice, and satsumas, a kind of tangerine. Not to forget green color foods, too! New studies point toward Vitamin K (found in many green plant sources to include kale, Swiss chard, broccoli, and fresh parsley) as protective against knee osteoarthritis. There are so many different food sources that can be of help in reducing inflammation and helping to prevent arthritis (to include cherries and pomegranates, and many other fruits and vegetables).

    • Yes, problems with joints can be minor or extremely disabling, but no one wants to have to put up with joint pain. Amazingly, research shows that joint pain associated with the menopause is a persistent and universal complaint among women. Even among women who have been found to breeze through menopause with few of the common symptoms such as hot flashes, nevertheless, at least 65% had joint pain.

  8. Something to look forward to. Not. At 56, I know my days are numbered, but I am still hoping that I will not have terrible menopause symptoms.

    • Menopause symptoms are different from “aging” symptoms. Unfortunately they sometimes overlap, and it’s sometimes hard to tell which (menopause or aging aspects) are causing the problems. This very problem is what I am trying to disentangle within my book with regard to joint pain. What I would like to help women realize is that some of the problems with aging are sometimes attributed to menopause, when they should not be. But, on the other hand, a realistic look at how our bodies change at menopause, and how we can avert some “hormonally” associated joint pain issues, are indeed a critical part of the awareness that is necessary. You, of course, may be able to offset and prevent many of the “terrible menopause symptoms,” but proper applicable knowledge is everything!

  9. Hi Berniece,

    Just saw your response to my post, as my original post was quite some time ago. But, I’m glad I checked in. Yes, I saw your sentiments expressed on Webmd.com.

    I do discuss in my book, “Flying Up the Stairs! What You Need to Know About Menopausal Arthritis” some of the issues, research and clinical aspects related to RA at and around the time of menopause. I hope that some of the research that I discuss might help elevate the conversation and discussion around this most vital topic.

    Thanks for your post, and any further insights that you might have are very welcomed!

  10. I’m waiting for your book in the mail. This seem to be the intormation that comes closest to how I’m feeling. This is the book that will determine whether I spend hundreds of dollars for a naturopath if it does not work for me. I’ve tried everything. The doctors are not helpful so I have to help myself. I don’t want prescription. I’ve tried alternative options found online, paleo and fermented foods being the latest. My job is very physical (warehouse) so I guess that can aggravate my pains. I have a feeling this book will be similar to what the naturopath will tell except I will be paying for a few test$. Cross my fingers that I mail be able to be the active person I once use to be.

  11. Hi Mirian,

    I certainly do hope that my book will provide insights and information that will be helpful to you. I am not a naturopathic or medical doctor, so consulting a medical or health professional would be very important. My insights and observations are based upon my own experience and research studies that I have found. Only a health professional can assess and diagnose what might be causing your pain.

    One of the things that I have found to be very true for me is that repetitive motions upon some tendons and joints can cause pain, especially as we get into and past menopause. I believe that for women this is especially relevant to the knee and surrounding tendons and muscles.

    I have found that when you begin to experience muscle/tendon/joint pain from this cause, it is best to stop the activity for a while. This will allow your muscles, tendons and joints to repair and revitalize. If I ignore the pain, and press on with the activity, I have sometimes paid quite a price in terms of a much longer and more difficult recovery. For example, I was intent on removing asphalt and putting in a new gravel driveway one year. I ignored the pain, and pushed on, only to find that suddenly something in my leg “gave out” and I couldn’t bear my weight, or walk on one leg. I literally used a cane at first, and it took me over three months to recover so that I could walk normally and without pain again. Lesson learned well: Never continue repetitive activity that is causing you pain.

    I would imagine that a warehouse job might possibly involve many repetitive motions on some joints and tendons. If this is the case for your job, it would be very important to assess whether this might be the cause of your pain.

    Some activities that one might not even think of, such as driving (repetitive motions on brake pedal) can cause pain for me (in the pes anserine knee area that I describe in my book). Stopping the driving for a while, or making shorter trips do both help. This helps to ensure that the injured tendons and irritated bursae don’t worsen to a point where it is more difficult to heal and manage.

    From my own experience, I also find T-Relief, a topical formula for joint and muscle pain, to be of much help to me. In my book, it is referred to as Traumeel (however, from my understanding, Traumeel is no longer available, and the company that now makes the product is MediNatura under the name T-Relief). You can purchase it at many stores that sell vitamins and supplements, or online.

    Mirian, I do hope that information in my book will help you! I did heal my joint pain with the information that I provide within my book based upon my research. I continue to be pain-free, as long as I don’t overdo any repetitive motion activity on vulnerable joints.

    Best wishes,

    Phyllis Rickel-Wong

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