Woman running away from a box of tampons.

When Aunt Flo Met Psoriatic Arthritis

Like most other women, my body lets me know when that time of the month is approaching. My body begins to crave chocolate and salt and I sob when the ASPCA commercial comes on. But the one thing that sets me apart from other women is the way PMS brings on joint pain like no tomorrow. Not only do I feel like a wreck, but I look like one while I hobble around filling up my hot water bottle.

For a long time, I silently suffered. Doctors brushed me off and told me periods and joint pain are unrelated. I worried that every other woman felt this way too and that I was being overdramatic. Or worse – maybe it was all in my head.

But after talking with other women with psoriatic arthritis, I discovered I was not alone in this struggle. Some women mentioned how their joint pain, stiffness, and fatigue increases right around their time of the month, or anytime they have a hormonal change. For example, some women noticed less pain while pregnant.

Hormones

Many people have found that certain things trigger pain and flares, such as alcohol. Unfortunately, one possible trigger we have very little control over is our hormones. According to the Arthritis Foundation, the drop in estrogen that occurs before your period is what’s to blame for extra pain. In fact, they even note that in clinical trials, those given placebos with estrogen had less pain than those using placebos without estrogen.

Taking control

Since hormones are unavoidable, what’s a girl to do?

For starters, it can help to stay on top of your current treatment. If you use diet to control your PsA, it helps to be extra strict and possibly add more anti-inflammatory foods into your diet. Those who use medication may find it helps to adjust their medication schedule. For years, I use to set a medication alarm for an hour before I needed to get up for school. That way, my body had time to process the medicine and I felt a little better getting up.

All can benefit from a little extra TLC. Try to take it easy, if at all possible. Allow yourself some downtime with a hot water bottle or a hot bath. Keeping hydrated always helps! And as bad as you may feel, it’s a good time to do some gentle stretches– sometimes it really helps.

Using birth control

When I first began using the birth control pill last year, I noticed less joint pain whenever Aunt Flo came. It was a sweet surprise! While I still do get a good amount of pain every month, the pill has helped take it down a notch by shortening my period and regulating my hormones. Some other women I’ve talked to have noticed the same benefit, especially if they used the pill to lighten a heavy period.

But while using the pill has helped me, it is not an approved treatment for reducing joint pain. I cannot stress enough that I am not trying to push others to take hormonal birth control. Not everyone reacts well to hormonal birth control, and the decision to start using it is a personal decision between you and your doctor.

Be kind to yourself

If I’ve learned anything from having arthritis, it’s that when it rains, it pours. Of course my joints are going to hurt when I get my period! Why wouldn’t they?! I think it’s important to be forgiving with yourself. It’s not fun for anyone, but especially not when your flaring. Take extra care of yourself! Try to stick to your arthritis treatment plan, fuel yourself with foods that don’t trigger pain or bloat (easier said than done), and indulge in well earned “you” time. And most important, be kind to yourself.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The Psoriatic-Arthritis.com team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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