Muscle and joint pain

24 February 2017.

Note: This page is about cyclical (hormonal) muscle and joint pain, only. Period pain, breast painendometriosisstomach ache, and headaches & migraines are covered in separate sections. If you experience muscle/ joint pain throughout your menstrual cycle, or due to another health issue (e.g. arthritis, or fibromyalgia) please seek professional advice before trying any of the following tips and tricks.

Hormone-related muscle or joint pain typically occurs just before and during menstruation [1].

The most commonly affected parts of the body are;

  • the neck [2]
  • shoulders [2]
  • kidneys [1]
  • the lower back [2]
  • hips [2]
  • and thighs [1]

Molecular compounds called prostaglandins are released during menstruation, and these are thought to be a major factor in triggering associated pain in muscles and joints [3].

Conditions to rule out first, under medical supervision;

Managing hormone-related muscle/ joint pain:

Try a hormone-balancing diet– As outlined in this blog, a vegetable-based ‘anti-inflammatory’ diet can significantly improve all hormone-related symptoms. We highlight a key step that is especially relevant for those suffering from muscle/ joint pain, below;

Magnesium supplements- Although the evidence is not at the standard required to be used in clinical guidelines, substantial anecdotal and small-scale research studies have found that magnesium supplementation can alleviate many different types of muscle and joint pain, as well as reducing inflammation, more generally [4] [5].

Most people do not get enough magnesium through their diet (it is found in dark green leafy vegetables, nuts, seeds, fish, beans, whole grains, avocados, yogurt, bananas, dried fruit,  dark chocolate and raspberry leaf tea). We recommend taking 100-300 mg of magnesium daily. Notemagnesium can act as a laxative, so if you start to experience loose stools, simply reduce the amount you are taking!

ExerciseLumbar stabilization exercises were shown to improve pain, and movement during menstrual lower back pain [6].

The NHS recommends that adults spend;

– at least 2.5 hours of moderate aerobic activity such as cycling or fast walking every week, and

– strength exercises on two or more days a week that work all the major muscles (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders and arms).

Obviously, there are many reasons why exercise is good for your health, but in terms of hormone-related symptoms it can maintain a healthy weight,  and improve flexibility and strength in your muscles and joints. If mild-moderate exercise is causing you significant pain, please seek professional advice.

Further information:

Page last reviewed and updated: June 2018


1. Lentz G.M. (2007) ‘Primary and secondary dysmenorrhea, premenstrual syndrome, and premenstrual dysphoric disorder: etiology, diagnosis, management’. In: Katz V.L., Lentz G.M., Lobo R.A., Gershenson D.M., editors. Comprehensive gynecology. 5th ed. Mosby Elsevier; Philadelphia, chap 36

2. Wijnhoven H.A., de Vet H.C., Smit H.A., Picavet H.S. Hormonal and reproductive factors are associated with chronic low back pain and chronic upper extremity pain in women—the MORGEN study. Spine. 2006;31:1496–1502.

3. Wright, J and Wyatt, S. (2003) The Washington Manual Obstetrics and Gynecology Survival Guide. Lippincott Williams and Wilkins

4. Li Y, Yue J, Yang C. (2016) Unraveling the role of Mg (++) in osteoarthritis. Life Sci. 2016 Feb 15;147:24-9. doi: 10.1016/j.lfs.2016.01.029. Epub 2016 Jan 19. Review. PubMed PMID: 26800786.

5. Volpe SL. (2015) Magnesium and the Athlete. Curr Sports Med Rep Jul-Aug;14(4):279-83. doi: 10.1249/JSR.0000000000000178. PubMed PMID: 26166051.

6. Shakeri, H., Fathollahi, Z., Karimi, N., & Arab, A. M. (2013). Effect of functional lumbar stabilization exercises on pain, disability, and kinesiophobia in women with menstrual low back pain: a preliminary trial. Journal of Chiropractic Medicine12(3), 160–167.

2 Replies

  1. I still do not understand why i have pains in my knees whilst on period, the pain takes over my everyday routine. This problem started from a teenager and I’m now 27 yo. There has been no injury.

    • Sport scientists have found that the ligaments and tissue around the knee change in form during the menstrual cycle. Similarly pain tolerance may reduce slightly during menstruation, meaning that mild injuries or issues can become more painful. Magnesium or vitamin D supplements can alleviate joint pain, and ibuprofen medication is very effective- either as a rub on gel or taken as tablets.

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