Although I’ve had issues with both Ehlers-Danlos and Mast Cell Disease since I was a toddler, most of my symptoms really began in puberty, around the age of 11. They took a further nosedive when I turned 40 and I believe changes in hormones were again to blame. It’s no coincidence that EDS forums are full of women only diagnosed in middle-age, as their symptoms became intrusive and unbearable during peri-menopause and they went searching for answers. Hormones have a lot to answer for.
I’m lucky in that my periods have always been regular as clock-work and fairly light, though unlucky in that they’ve always been excruciatingly painful and exhausting and I’ve suffered from menstrual migraines for donkeys years. I’ve always put this down to EDS, though I’ve since learned that mast cells live in the uterine connective tissue so could also have been playing their part.
The week before my period, my joints become super flexible. Every injury I’ve ever had has occurred the week before my period, including tearing my SI ligaments just walking the dog and subluxing my shoulder and consequently tearing the connecting ligament simply reaching for the tv remote. I now take extra precautions leading up to my period by using all my joint braces/supports and not doing any kind of exercise such as weeding the garden or even doing any housework (just the repetitive movement of dusting can strain my arms and shoulder ligaments and make them sore).
This worked fairly well until this year, when I actively entered peri-menopause (I’m 45). I may have unknowingly been in peri-menopause for some time, but as I’ve always had night sweats and insomnia as part of my M.E., and flushing due to MCAD, it was impossible to tell. But this year my menstrual cycles have changed, ranging from 21 days to 31 days and anything in between, plus this month (August) I’ve had a “phantom period” with all the signs and symptoms of a period but no bleeding. This, of course, has made it impossible to tell when my period is due, and because of that when to use my braces/supports and which activities to undertake. As if life isn’t tricky enough!
This month I appear to’ve subluxed my right jaw bone in my pre-menstrual week. I think I did it during the night as I sleep on my side and must have laid awkwardly on it. It’s now painful to chew and yawning is a definite no no! It’ll settle down, but is one more new symptom to add to my list. In fact, I’ve never had a subluxed joint before until this year and I’ve now had three in the last four months. It can’t be mere coincidence that these have coincided with my periods going haywire.
There is evidence that joints can become less prone to subluxation or dislocation as we age, as we naturally stiffen up and our range of movement decreases. I’m finding just the opposite. Although I am significantly stiffer than I used to be, my muscles and ligaments are much weaker, and this seems to be making me more injury prone, not less. I have to say, though, that I welcome the menopause and finally being able to be rid of my monthly agony, though I’m aware I’m likely to face new challenges symptom-wise and I’m unsure how my EDS or Mast Cells are going to react.