The game of menopause bingo
2 and 1, 21 — TENSE MUSCLES
In our game of BINGO the Number 21 relates to Tense Muscles. Aches and pains increase with the Peri-menopause phase.
It has been said that as hormones fluctuate, go into flux, it can create a host of imbalances that impact muscles. Extended high levels of cortisol in the face of low oestrogen levels causes the muscles in the body to tighten and become fatigued. Progesterone has a calming effect on the body and mind. When levels of progesterone begin to drop prior to menopause, muscles tend to become tense.
Experiencing tense muscles is a common side effect of the Menopause and hormonal imbalances. Perimenopause can be a very stressful time, and often at a very stressful stage of life when we have many responsibilities. As I approached perimenopause I was working harder and longer than I had done at any time in my life. Juggling job, career, home, relationships and family. The relationship with Self being the most neglected.
Why does a muscle become tense?
A muscle is either in a state of contraction/tension or it is in a relaxed Release state. When muscles are constantly in a state of tightness then tension follows, and often we store that tension in the body as pain. The more a muscle is tense the weaker it will become and then prone to injury. Tense muscle reduce mobility and flexibility, they attach or cross over joints which can them pull joints out of alignment. We hold tension in the body in 7 bands (head, eyes/sinus’s, jaw, neck, shoulders, chest/arms, abdomin, pelvis/hips/gyneo and legs/feet.
What are the main reasons for tense muscle?
There are many reasons for Tense Muscles are :
- Past Injuries
- Poor Posture
- Hormone imbalances
- Hydration, Diet and weight gain
- Increased sensitivity to pain
Why does hormones and water impact tense muscles?
We think Oestrogen is just about fertility, but did you know that Oestrogen is responsible for regulating fluid levels in the body. If levels of this hormone are low, or fluctuate, then the body becomes less able to hold water, which can affect the hydration and lubrication of the joint tissues, including the cartilage, ligaments and tendons. Fluctuating oestrogen levels may also give rise to underlying, low-grade inflammation as a result of the effects it has on the functions of joints. And of course, we can’t ignore the long term detrimental effects the Stress hormone Cortisol has on our muscles, inflame and cause pain.
”Up to 80% of cartilage is water, making it a very important component of this flexible and protective tissue, which acts as a cushion between the bones, absorbing shock and easing friction. Water is also a natural part of synovial fluid, a gel-like liquid which lubricates the cartilage and helps the joints move without creating friction.
Water is also needed to help support the flexibility and elasticity of the ligaments and tendons. Ligaments connect one bone to another and are needed for joint stability, while tendons connect your muscles to the bones. When your ligaments and tendons lose their elasticity, your range and ease of movement can be reduced.”
What happens to muscle as we age?
All muscles atrophy with age, from the age of 30 years old, we start to loose muscle fibres 1% year on year, so by the time we reach the perimenopause our muscles are already becoming less robust, shrinking or we suffer from muscle wastage, and this can make us more prone to injury, Exercise, strength training and weight resistance is important to help keep muscles stronger. At the same time, we also need to pay attention to the way we move, and to stretch regularly after heavy activity.
Does Perimenopause make us more sensitive to pain? Pain receptors are everywhere in the body. Our ability to tolerant pain reduces with Stress and especially lack of sleep. ”Sleeping poorly is notorious during menopause and research has proved that sleep deprivation increases our sensitivity to pain: a study from the University of California found that sleep deprivation can change the circuitry in the brain in ways that amplify pain”. Stress go heighten our nervous system and that impacts the sensitivity of all the nerves, and pain receptors sites around the body, known as nociceptors. These nociceptors are known to exist in muscle, joints, and skin. Each nociceptor has selective sensitivity to mechanical (muscle-fibre stretching), chemical (including lactic acid), and thermal stimuli.
What can we do to reduce Tense Muscles?
Because low magnesium can also impact your pain perception, as well as causing sleeping problems. Poor levels of this essential nutrient are very common during menopause due to stress and digestive weakness.
So there are many things we can do, increase you consume sufficient levels of Magnesium. Magnesium has a relaxation effect on muscles and enables them to switch off, and signals our chemical body clock that is it night-time and help prepare for better restful sleep.
What movement is good for tense muscles?
SOMA or Somatic type stretches or exercises can also be really helpful. For example, if I perform a task that is stressful for the body, like driving long distances, playing golf, hoovering whatever. First I have to physically actively ‘remind’ my muscles to switch off and relax, you know sit down, allow your shoulders to drop, focus on good posture, body awareness. Then I have to mentally/imagine that same muscle relaxing.
Learning Tension Releasing techniques are also recommended and something that I offer in my classes/workshops.
We can hold both physical and mental tension in the body. Whilst your hormones are settling and becoming more stable as your transition through the Peri-menopause, you might notice that your tense muscles reduce. There are many things that are for ‘natural’ that we can do to help balance the muscular system of the body.
Muscles need good nutrition, hydration, minerals like magnesium to be able to return to relaxation, relaxing breathing techniques, Body awareness, Mindfulness techniques, stretching, Foam roller, Fascia work, Yoga, and anything you can do to help reduce Cortisol levels (Cortisol is our stress hormone).