How your body changes during menopause
Menopause is defined as the time in your life when you stop having menstrual periods and your ovaries stop producing estrogen. Most women will naturally experience this change at 51 years, on average, but in other circumstances, this change can happen sooner or more suddenly. With induced menopause, individuals undergoing chemotherapy treatments or surgeries may experience permanent menopause onset while in other instances, as with certain hormone therapies or lactation, menopausal symptoms may be transient.
Unfortunately, we rarely discuss the variation in causes leading to menopause and the subsequent variation in symptoms stemming from this dramatic hormonal shift. Instead, menopause has become publicly and socially linked to dramatic mood swings and hot flashes, while in reality, menopausal symptoms vary tremendously from person to person. While vasomotor symptoms, like hot flashes, and difficulty sleeping may be most commonly reported, other symptoms with potentially severe implications are often overlooked or ignored entirely, such as painful intercourse, vaginal atrophy, increased incontinence and frequent urination, and increased risk of osteoporosis. To ignore these symptoms, is to ignore the truth that you can do something about it.
How does physical therapy help with menopause symptoms?
The standard of care for menopause symptoms is currently unclear in the United States. In fact, the first sentence on the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services website containing information related to "Menopause Treatment" reads, in bold: "Many women do not need treatment for their menopause symptoms." It is difficult to read this statement and not feel that this must mean that you do not need treatment for your menopause symptoms.
At Origin, we are affirming that your menopause symptoms are worth consideration, that they are treatable, and that women should not have to tolerate something simply because, historically, they have been forced to do so.
Speak with your gynecologist or primary care physician if you experience any symptoms or changes in your menstruation, sexual, bladder or bowel function, age-related or otherwise. They may inform you of any oral or topical hormone therapies or medications available to you to help manage symptoms, and they can refer you to a physical therapist specialized in addressing your symptoms in order to further improve your quality of life.
Evidence shows that addressing pelvic floor muscle function, in conjunction with improving overall muscle strength and physical wellbeing, can help to reduce and even prevent many symptoms related to menopause. The physical therapists at Origin are trained to address these symptoms and are prepared to work with you in finding a plan of care best suited to support you and your unique peri- and postmenopausal symptoms.
By the year 2060, the average lifespan of women in America is projected to reach 87.3 years and nearly 1 in 4 Americans will be over the age of 65 years. A new standard of care is needed to support these women, both today and in the future. Let's all change the way we see and treat menopause. Origin already has.
Additional Reading and Sources
Dennerstein, Lorraine, and Richard D. Hayes. "Confronting the Challenges: Epidemiological Study of Female Sexual Dysfunction and the Menopause." The Journal of Sexual Medicine, vol. 2, 2005, pp. 118–132., doi:10.1111/j.1743-6109.2005.00128.x.
Kaunitz, Andrew M., and Joann E. Manson. "Management of Menopausal Symptoms." Obstetrics & Gynecology, vol. 126, no. 4, 2015, pp. 859–876., doi:10.1097/aog.0000000000001058.
"Menopause Treatments." Womenshealth.gov, 23 May 2019, www.womenshealth.gov/menopause/menopause-treatment.
"The Menopause Years." American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, 2018, www.acog.org/en/Patient%20Resources/FAQs/Womens%20Health/The%20Menopause%20Years.
Medina, Lauren D., Shannon Sabo, and Jonathan Vespa, "Living Longer: Historical and Projected Life Expectancy in the United States, 1960 to 2060," P25-1145, Current Population Reports, P25-1145, U.S. Census Bureau, Washington, DC, 2020.
Naumova, Iuliia, and Camil Castelo-Branco. "Current Treatment Options for Postmenopausal Vaginal Atrophy." International Journal of Women's Health, Volume 10, 2018, pp. 387–395., doi:10.2147/ijwh.s158913.
Sran, Meena, et al. "Physical Therapy for Urinary Incontinence in Postmenopausal Women with Osteoporosis or Low Bone Density." Menopause, vol. 23, no. 3, 2016, pp. 286–293., doi:10.1097/gme.0000000000000594.
Tong, Xiaoyang, et al. "The Effect of Exercise on the Prevention of Osteoporosis and Bone Angiogenesis." Biomed Research International, vol. 2019, no. Article ID 8171897, 18 Apr. 2019, doi:10.1155/2019/8171897.