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Why your painful, aching muscles could be menopause, not just age

You may think that aches and pains in your muscles – also known as myalgia – are simply part of getting older. But if you’re going through perimenopause, or have reached menopause, there’s a good chance that hormone changes are contributing to your muscle pain.

Reduced levels of oestrogen and progesterone can both lead to increased muscle pain. They may also result in problems with your joints, which can in turn cause pain in your muscles.

Below, we’ll look at this in more detail, as well as what menopause muscle pain can feel like and where in your body you might experience it.

We’ll also explore what you can do to help prevent or relieve muscle pain, including lifestyle changes, tips for quick relief and supplements that could improve things.

The Better Gut probiotic supplements contain ‘friendly’ bacteria chosen specifically for the positive effects they can have on a range of menopause symptoms.

For 10% off your first order – and regular expert advice on menopause health and nutrition – join our newsletter community.

Menopause, hormones and muscle pain

As you head through perimenopause towards menopause, your levels of reproductive hormones like oestrogen and progesterone fluctuate and eventually drop.

These changes can contribute to a range of menopause symptoms, including musculoskeletal pain – the overarching term for pain in the muscles and other tissues that connect to the bones.

Studies suggest that over 70% of women will experience menopausal musculoskeletal pain at some point, with symptoms becoming more severe after menopause when reproductive hormones are at their lowest.

There are a number of ways that reduced levels of these hormones could increase muscular aches and pains.  

Oestrogen helps to protect your muscles from damage and inflammation after exercise or injuries, meaning you could feel more pain when levels are low.

Reduced oestrogen can also lead to an increase in the stress hormone cortisol, and high cortisol levels can make pain seem more intense.

Progesterone affects your perception of pain too: it’s responsible for keeping your body relaxed and raising your pain threshold. Some researchers have suggested that fluctuations in progesterone during perimenopause could therefore explain bouts of musculoskeletal pain.

Aches and pains in your muscles can also be the result of problems with your joints, such as the tendons in your hips, where pain can radiate into the surrounding muscles. We’ll discuss this in more detail later in the article.

Can HRT reduce muscle pain?

Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) replaces the hormones lost due to menopause. It comes in tablets, or as skin gels or patches, and can help to relieve a range of menopause symptoms including hot flushes, anxiety and sleep problems.

But despite the links between reproductive hormones and muscle pain, there’s limited evidence that HRT can help in this case. In fact, some studies have found that menopausal women on HRT had a lower pain tolerance than those who didn’t use it.

More research is needed before scientists can fully understand the complex ways these hormones interact with each other to impact muscle pain.

What does menopause muscle pain feel like?

Muscle aches and pains during and after perimenopause can range from dull aches, throbbing and cramps to shooting pains and even spasms. Stiffness in your muscles is quite common and some women experience a tingling or crawling sensation, especially in their legs.

Without the potentially protective effects of oestrogen, you may also notice your muscles feeling sorer or more tired after exercise. If you regularly get pain in your hips, buttocks or groin, it could be a sign of a condition called gluteal tendinopathy and you may need to reduce the amount of exercise you do for a while.

Menopause muscle pain can occur in a variety of different places around your body. Many women report lower back pain, leg pain and even all-over body aches, like you might experience with flu. But everyone is different, and areas where you could feel muscle pain include:

  • neck
  • shoulders
  • around the rib cage
  • lower, mid or upper back
  • hips
  • legs
  • all over your body, like flu

The link between menopause muscle pain and joint pain

If you have muscle pain due to menopause, you may also get aches and pains in your joints.

This could be partly because reduced levels of reproductive hormones can contribute to both. Low oestrogen, for example, can make your body less efficient at producing collagen, which is an important component of both the cartilage that acts as a cushion between your joints and the tendons that connect your joints to your muscles.

It may also be hard to tell where muscle pain ends and joint pain begins.

Sometimes, pain in your muscles can actually be caused by problems with your joints. One example is gluteal tendinopathy, where both underuse or overuse – such as too much exercise – can lead to wear and tear in your hip tendons. Although this often causes pain in the hip joint itself, it can also extend to the muscles connected to the tendons, such as those in your buttocks – or glutes – as well as your groin, and even down your upper leg.

Can supplements help ease menopause muscle pain?

There’s not much research looking specifically at the impact of over-the-counter supplements or natural remedies on muscle pain in menopausal women. However, there are some supplements that may help, depending on your symptoms and the cause of your pain.

  • Collagen: Collagen peptides, also known as hydrolysed collagen, can help maintain cartilage and tendon health, which could be particularly important if your muscle pain stems from a joint issue such as gluteal tendinopathy.
  • Curcumin: This anti-inflammatory extract of the spice turmeric has been shown to reduce muscle pain. One small pilot study found that a 500 milligram (mg) curcumin supplement was better at reducing arthritis pain and swelling than the drug diclofenac, which is also used to treat muscle strains.
  • Omega-3s: Fish oil supplements containing these essential fatty acids have been shown to reduce muscle soreness after exercise, but only at very high dosages of 6 grams per day. However, omega-3s can reduce other menopausal symptoms including joint pain, so could be helpful if you experience that alongside your muscle pain. If you don’t eat fish, you can get the same omega-3s from algae oil.

Probiotics for menopause symptoms

Probiotics are friendly bacteria that have health benefits when you consume them. This includes improving the balance of your gut microbiome, the community of microorganisms that live in your gut.

Some probiotics interact with part of your microbiome called the estrobolome. This is the group of gut bacteria that processes oestrogen and other reproductive hormones.

By helping your estrobolome to use oestrogen more efficiently – as well as supporting other functions around your body – these bacteria can improve menopause symptoms.

The Better Gut probiotic supplements contain strains of bacteria chosen specifically for the benefits they can have on menopause health, including:

  • bone density and osteoporosis risk
  • inflammation and immune health
  • hot flashes and night sweats
  • mood and symptoms of anxiety and depression
  • brain fog and mental fatigue 
  • sleep quality
  • bloating and constipation
  • vaginal health 
  • maintaining a healthy weight

You can find out more here. For 10% off your first order – plus regular expert tips on menopause health and nutrition – why not join our newsletter.

Other ways to manage menopause muscle pain

There are a number of lifestyle changes that can work together to help manage your muscle pain during and after perimenopause, as well as improving your overall health.

We’ll also look at some things you can try to reduce muscle pain in the short term.

Improve your diet

Following a varied and balanced diet will support the health of your muscles, and your joints.

Regularly consuming foods high in antioxidants and healthy fats can help your muscles to recover better after exercise and reduce inflammation and pain.

Try to include a range of colourful fruits and vegetables, leafy greens, and nuts and seeds, as well as oily fish like salmon and mackerel and plenty of extra virgin olive oil.

Exercise regularly

Research has shown that adding regular exercise to your routine can reduce pain and other menopause symptoms.

However, the amount of exercise you should do, and what kind, can depend on the cause of your muscle pain, so it’s best to get advice from a doctor or physiotherapist about the right exercise programme for you.

Practice good sleep habits

Pain can stop you sleeping properly but, vice versa, poor sleep can increase pain, by lowering your pain threshold and increasing stress.

Poor quality sleep is also linked to other menopause symptoms, including depression, brain fog and low energy.

To improve your chances of getting a good night’s sleep, follow these bedtime habits.

Reduce stress

Stress, and the high levels of cortisol associated with it, can increase your sensitivity to pain.

Regular exercise and better sleep are great ways to reduce stress. Mindfulness techniques like meditation and breathing exercises can also help, as can talking therapies like cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) if you’re able to access them.

Maintain a healthy weight

A number of studies have shown links between a higher body mass index (BMI) and increased musculoskeletal pain, particularly in the lower back and legs.

You can check your BMI with this calculator. If you need to lose weight, regular exercise and a balanced diet can help you to do it in a sustainable way.

Stop smoking

The nicotine in tobacco increases your sensitivity to pain. In studies, smokers report more pain than non-smokers in areas including their backs, arms and legs.

Of course, quitting smoking can be a challenge – but the NHS and CDC offer plenty of help and support.

Quick treatments for menopause muscle pain

  • Massage: Deep tissue massage by a trained therapist has been shown to reduce muscle pain by as much as 50%, as well as increasing your pain threshold. If you can’t access a masseur, massage rollers that you use yourself can have similar benefits. However, it’s important to understand the cause of your muscle pain before trying massage – in some cases, such as with tendinopathy, massaging the wrong area could make things worse.
  • Medication: Over-the-counter painkillers like paracetamol and codeine may help with muscle pain, while NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) like ibuprofen and diclofenac can reduce inflammation too. These aren’t designed to be taken on a regular basis, though, so if your pain continues you should talk to your doctor.
  • Heat packs: If you suffer from recurring muscle aches and pains, applying heat to your muscles can help. You can buy specially designed packs that you heat in the microwave, or use a hot water bottle.


Muscle pain, also known as myalgia, is a common menopause symptom. Reduced levels of oestrogen and progesterone can both lead to increased pain sensitivity. They may also cause problems in the cartilage and tendons of your joints, which can be felt as pain in your muscles.

You may experience muscle pain in any of the major muscles in your body, including the shoulders, ribs, back, hips and legs. It can range from a dull ache to a sharp shooting pain.

Lifestyle changes including exercising more, eating a healthy, balanced diet, improving your sleep routine, trying stress-reducing techniques and stopping smoking could all help with muscle pain.

Over-the-counter medications, heat packs and massage may provide short-term relief, depending on what’s causing your symptoms.

In some cases, supplements including collagen, curcumin and omega-3 oils could help support the health of your muscles and joints, or reduce pain.

The Better Gut probiotic supplements can help with a range of menopause symptoms, including osteoporosis risk, inflammation, hot flashes, brain fog, anxiety and digestive issues.

Get 10% off your first order here.