Curious how a pelvic physio can help with menopause? Learn about menopausal symptoms and how pelvic floor physical therapy exercise can help.
Women who have been through menopause, sometimes called “the change” or “change of life,” will often tell you it’s a time of low energy, physical changes, and discomfort as the body’s hormones shift to menopause. This life phase can indeed be challenging, but what they don’t tell us is that it is possible to thrive during this time. Pelvic floor physiotherapy can help with this.
Although pelvic floor physiotherapists can’t wave a magic wand, they can empower women with knowledge and advice about their bodies and the changes they will likely experience. With this knowledge, women can feel more in control of their situation and symptoms.
Symptoms Common in Menopause
You may already know some of the more common menopause symptoms, including:
- Irregular periods (menopause begins 12 months after your final period but peri-menopause can start up to 10 years before this point)
- Mood changes including anxiety and irritability
- Vaginal dryness and sexual pain
- Thinning hair
- Hot flushes
- Night sweats
- Skin changes
- Sleep problems
- Weight gain
But menopause affects your body in other ways, too. Let’s take a look at some symptoms of menopause that you might not know about and how pelvic floor physical therapy could help:
Menopause and the Pelvic Floor
The pelvic floor muscles form the base of what is commonly called the core. It is made of layers of muscle and tissue that stretch front to back from the pubic bone to the tailbone and side to side from one seat bone to the other. They help you to control your bowel and bladder and support a baby during pregnancy.
In menopause, shifts in hormones affect the health of the pelvic floor. Specifically, oestrogen levels drop, and these muscles and tissues thin and lose their elasticity, and the natural lubrication in the vagina decreases. Women may experience a range of symptoms, including bladder infections, stress or urge urinary incontinence, pain with urination, discomfort or pain during sex, loss of libido, and vaginal dryness, burning or itching.
While other menopause symptoms, like hot flushes and night sweats, can improve over time, pelvic symptoms can persist or even worsen. That’s why it’s important to consult with your GP or a specialist here at Sydney Pelvic Clinic to get started on a tailored management plan that can include pelvic floor muscle retraining, bladder training, and other guidance for how to minimise symptoms, helping you to improve your pelvic health and thrive through menopause.
Menopause and the Musculoskeletal System
Menopause also has many effects on the musculoskeletal system, as oestrogen production directly affects the muscles, tendons, ligaments, and bones. The decline of oestrogen leads to a rapid loss of muscle and strength, making women in menopause more prone to muscle injury. Oestrogen also regulates the production of cortisol. As oestrogen levels drop, cortisol levels rise, leading to muscle pain and tension.
The decrease in oestrogen also affects the ligaments and tendons, increasing their stiffness. Ligaments attach bone to bone, and an increase in stiffness isn’t necessarily a bad thing; it can actually help maintain joint stability. But stiff tendons, which attach muscle to bone, can result in muscle injury.
Lower oestrogen levels also lead to a reduction in bone mass. Most people reach their peak bone mass around age 30, and then it begins to reduce steadily. The decreased oestrogen levels in menopause speed up this process, putting women at greater risk of osteoporosis.
There are many things you can do to maintain healthy bones and muscles. Exercise is an effective way to improve and maintain bone structure and increase muscle strength and mass. Aim for about 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise every day. That said, if you are having musculoskeletal symptoms, talk to your GP or get in touch with Sydney Pelvic Clinic to receive an individualised management plan for your musculoskeletal health. Even if you’re not yet entering menopause, building bone and muscle health early on can help reduce the decline in menopause.
Sydney Pelvic Clinic provides education, targeted exercise programs, and manual therapy, including specialised Bone Builder sessions aimed at improving bone health for people with osteopenia or osteoporosis.
Are You Approaching Menopause or Struggling with Menopausal Symptoms?
SPC wants all women to be empowered to take control of their health journey and thrive through this life stage. If you’re curious to learn more about the symptoms and how to feel good through menopause, join our FREE Thrive Through Menopause webinar! You’ll learn more about pelvic symptoms and the pelvic floor exercises that can help, as well as bone health, sexual health, mood changes, insomnia, urinary incontinence, reduced bladder function, and other urinary symptoms.
Don’t wait until menopause is upon you. If you’re experiencing perimenopause symptoms or are even just in your forties and want to be prepared, learn how to thrive through menopause with the help of pelvic floor physiotherapy.