Menopause: physician heal thyself

As role models for our patients, we must prioritise our self-care as we go into the menopause, says Christien Bird

Christien Bird
Christien Bird, women’s health physiotherapist

Menopause may be less taboo now, with CSP stewards campaigning for it to be included in local workplace policies and occupational health awareness. 

However, a TUC survey found eight out of 10 women experience noticeable symptoms of menopause. Of these, 45 per cent find it hard to deal with. There is more we could do to help ourselves.

Menopause is a puzzle. Those going through it all need different pieces, but the three that every woman benefits from are sleep, a good diet and exercise. 

Although they are important at any stage in life, this level of self-care is critical when going into the menopause. Declining oestrogen means a decline in anabolic signalling, affecting the muscles and most other tissues. 

As movement experts we are well placed to make women aware of the importance of impact and resistance training to maintain lean muscle mass and bone density when leading up to and during the menopause.

If you are reading this and you’re over 30 you are likely to be losing bone. As we all know bone is reactive tissue, it is constantly remodelled, in fact our entire skeleton is replaced about every 10 years. Women benefit from multi-direction high impact and strengthening exercises that produce adequate stress on bones. The Australian LIFTMOR study showed it was safe even for those post-menopausal with low to very low bone mass.

However, the barriers to exercise and movement are significant and while we work closely with women to remove them, we often face the same challenges ourselves. The Women in Sport menopause research this year showed fear, shame, feeling too fat or unfit, being too tired or not having enough time stopped many from exercising enough. 

We need to encourage ourselves to be confident about high-intensity training and resistance, to be comfortable with discomfort and help women to overcome barriers. Let’s be part of a cultural shift.

  • Christien Bird, women’s health physiotherapist, White Hart Clinic in Barnes, and on the educational sub-committee of the Pelvic, Obstetric and Gynaecological Physiotherapy professional network

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