What are the three stages of menopause and how do touch therapies help?Jun 13, 2022
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While the conversation around menopause is growing, such has been the silence over the years that many women don't recognise the symptoms when they start occurring. As a result, it can be disconcerting when they do manifest, especially as they can start appearing at much younger ages than many women realise.
What we know, is that there are in fact three stages of menopause, with 34 clearly identified symptoms that can occur with varying degrees of intensity over a 20 year period. Some women experience almost all of those symptoms, others very few. While intense symptoms can be extremely difficult to cope with, insidious ones can also be disconcerting. We have spoken to lots of women who feel that they are losing their minds when they forget things or experience brain fog, for example.
Perhaps the most common thing we hear, from women who seem to be almost screaming with frustration, is that no one is listening to them, especially if they want to find holistic solutions to their symptoms rather than, or instead of, medical ones.
One woman commented to us: "No one's listening to me. I have no support because I won't use HRT or antidepressants. Such a touch place to be in."
As therapists, we are in a unique position to educate ourselves to provide both an empathetic ear as well as nurturing support through touch therapies tailored to the individual symptoms of hormonal change.
The three stages of menopause
Roughly one in 100 women experience perimenopausal symptoms before the age of 40, although it's most commonly identified between 45 and 55. It can occur up to 10 years before women actually go into menopause, and broadly speaking the symptoms are similar to those experienced in menopause itself, but to a lesser extent.
For example, some of the symptoms women might start to experience include:
- Hot flushes
- More fine lines appear on the skin
- Night sweats
- Trouble concentrating
- Mood changes
- Changes in sexual desire
The technical definition of having reached menopause is when you have not had a period for 12 consecutive months without other causes like medication or pregnancy. Moving from perimenopause through to post menopause can take several years, but it can be different for everyone (as with all things). The symptoms experienced in perimenopause still apply, but they can be more acute.
Post-menopause is usually described by the medical world as the time after that one-year mark has passed since your last period. It’s not unusual to continue having the various symptoms already mentioned for a number of years post menopause. In addition, as a result of lower oestrogen levels, there can be an increased risk of things like:
- Heart disease
- Osteopenia (loss of bone mass)
- Osteoporosis (fragile bones)
None of that is something to worry about unduly, but simply to say it's a good time to invest in self-care.
How therapists can help
Key things to know before we look at solutions, is the impact that symptoms have on women and their lives. This gives us an insight into the opportunities to provide support that has practical relevance. These are just a few stats to give you a snapshot of the areas in which you can make a difference:
- Internet searches for the term ‘menopause’ have doubled since 2004
- 90% of women experience symptoms of menopause
- Menopause symptoms interfere with 85% of women’s lives, 12% experience debilitating symptoms. Only 4% reported that symptoms do not interfere with their lives.
- The menopause market is £46 million
- Three in five women claim the menopause has had a negative impact on them at work
- 1.5 million women over 50 in the UK are at menopause
There are two broad categories (emphasis on 'broad') that define the challenges that women face during this period of hormonal change:
- They don't feel heard or understood
- There's a general lack of support for managing symptoms beyond prescribing HRT, which isn't suitable for everyone, isn't a complete solution and isn't desired by everyone.
Listening and its benefits
From our personal experiences, we can all attest to the power and importance of being heard. What many women find when they're going through menopause is that those around them; those who would typically be considered their nearest and dearest, as well as the medical professionals they trust, cannot empathise with them and don't really hear them when they voice their concerns. It can be extremely isolating.
We know that people tend to talk to therapists in a way they might not talk to anyone else. The treatment room is a safe space in which people can express thoughts, feelings and experiences without fear of judgement, without it needing to be a reciprocal relationship and without even necessarily wanting total solutions, but just to be heard.
As therapists, many of us do this by nature of our work and our personalities. However, having knowledge of what women experience with hormonal changes adds practical support to the compassion we're able to offer, and that can be an enormous relief to individuals. Equally, if someone in their thirties talks about symptoms that you know to be common during perimenopause, you may be able to set them on a path to understanding what's happening to them.
As a therapist you're not expected to be a counsellor or a doctor, but you can be the linchpin between the two that helps women to make sense of what's happening to them and find pathways to feeling better.
Touch therapies and its benefits
Touch therapies have a wealth of benefits in general, to which we can all attest. When it comes to symptoms of menopause, touch therapies can be specially adapted to target particular symptoms - both the cause and providing symptom relief.
The way we have done this at Jennifer Young, is to take all our knowledge of touch, aromatherapy, hormonal imbalance, skincare and circadian rhythms, and bring it together in protocols that can be adapted for individual needs.
Much like our oncology touch treatments, the key to making a difference to clients with hormonal imbalances is a combination of:
- Knowledge of the concerns and their causes
- Knowledge of the impact of different elements of touch therapies
- Knowledge of how to adapt treatments for the individual
In particular, in our training we focus on understanding the biology of menopause, looking at the power of holistic solutions and HRT alternatives. For example, we educate around phytohormones (plant hormones), which we include in our dedicated MPlus skincare collection for hormone balance, and recommend lifestyle enhancing solutions that help manage symptoms and their causes, guided by an initial consultation.
As with the best of spa treatments, touch therapies are at their best when you as a therapist take the knowledge from the training and apply it using intuition and compassion that you gain from listening to your client. This is why the combination of touch therapies and informed listening.
The result is, hopefully, longer-term relationships with your clients, developed through highly beneficial and targeted experiences, as well as clear benefits for clients and a more enjoyable experience of menopause.
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