Why Your Period Can Cause Joint Pain – and How to Ease It

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As if the bloating, fatigue, PMS, and headaches weren’t enough, there’s another fairly common period symptom that can wreak havoc on your day: joint pain. While people don’t always connect joint pain to their menstrual cycles, in research published in BMC Women’s Health involving over 10,000 people, 43 percent of those with menstrual cramps also experienced mild to severe joint pain during their period.

Joint pain before or during your period is most often due to the hormone fluctuations that occur during that point in your menstrual cycle. And while pain in your joints during your period can be frustrating or even disruptive, it’s typically not cause for concern. Here, three ob-gyns explain the reason for painful joints before or during your period – and what you can do about the symptom.

The Reason For Joint Pain During Your Period

Joint pain before your period or during your period is likely connected to a hormone-like fatty compound known as prostaglandins, says Hyacinth Norris, MD, an ob-gyn in the DC metro area. When you’re menstruating, prostaglandin levels increase, Dr. Norris says.

These compounds are made in the lining of the uterus. “As the lining of the uterus is shed, prostaglandins are released. They diffuse into the local bloodstream and into neighboring tissue,” Dr. Norris tells PS. The prostaglandins prompt the uterus to contract, helping it to expel its lining, which is made of blood and tissue.

But prostaglandins trigger inflammation too, and therefore can worsen joint pain while also lowering your pain threshold, making you more sensitive to any achiness.

Dr. Norris notes that estrogen levels also decrease around the same time prostaglandin levels rise, and that can also cause inflammation, contributing to the pain.

How to Treat Joint Pain Before or During Your Period

There are some steps you can take to try to soothe joint pain that crops up before or during your period. As a preventative measure, Peace Nwegbo-Banks, MD, an ob-gyn with Serenity Women’s Health & Med Spa in Texas, recommends taking a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID), such as ibuprofen, two to three days before the start of your period.

NSAIDs have been shown to block an enzyme the body uses to make prostaglandins. Starting them a couple days before you expect your period to begin helps prevent the body from producing large amounts of the compounds, preventing joint pain. To keep the pain away, you can keep taking them for a day or two once your period begins.

But you may want to check with your doctor before using this trick several months in a row, since NSAIDs are only meant for short-term use.

Oral contraceptives are another alternative. Dr. Nwegbo-Banks says that a continuous method of birth control can help minimize the fluctuations in hormones that contribute to joint pain. In addition, Dr. Norris tells PS that by keeping the endometrial lining thin, contraceptives help prevent it from breaking down and producing an influx of prostaglandins, which means less inflammation.

To ease joint pain during your period, Houston-based ob-gyn Tamika K. Cross, MD, says you can try low-impact workouts like yoga or Pilates if you feel up to it.

While hitting the yoga mat may be the last thing you feel like doing when you’re already achy, some gentle movement can help the body release endorphins, which have pain-relieving effects.

When to See a Doctor For Joint Pain During Your Period

Though minor aches during your period aren’t likely cause for concern, the doctors caution that joint pain in general can be associated with conditions like lupus, osteoarthritis, and fibromyalgia.

If the pain is so intense that it gets in the way of your daily activities, or if it worsens over time, make an appointment with your doctor to get other issues ruled out.

– Additional reporting by Mirel Zaman

Emily Weaver is an entertainment and lifestyle contributor for PS. Her writing focuses on celebrity relationships, movie and book news, and product shopping guides. Her bylines include PEOPLE, Real Simple, Better Homes & Gardens, HelloGiggles, Scary Mommy, and more.

Mirel Zaman is the wellness director at PS. She has nearly 15 years of experience working in the health and wellness space, writing and editing articles about fitness, general health, mental health, relationships and sex, food and nutrition, astrology, spirituality, family and parenting, culture, and news.

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