Oops, I did it again: Why we're so clumsy in menopause
Do things just slip through your fingers? Do you continually bump into things, drop things, misplant a foot when descending the stairs or stepping off a curb? Are you noticing a correlation between menopause and falling over?
Remember that gawky awkward phase you went through as you entered puberty? When suddenly your legs were longer, your arms reached farther, and all these new bits of you felt out of your control?
If you’re now buying your stemware at The Dollar Store because they don’t last very long in your house, well, menopause may be (in part, at least) to blame.
Is clumsiness a symptom of perimenopause and menopause? What causes it*
Why are we so clumsy all of a sudden?
Estrogen – particularly estradiol – appears to have a beneficial effect on fine motor skills. It’s why, at certain points in a woman’s cycle, she may feel a bit clumsier or more graceful than at other times.
It’s also why many women in perimenopause and menopause notice a marked difference in their ability to hold onto things and move comfortably through the world.
Drops in estrogen can also make concentration a bit more difficult, and that moment of inattention can be the difference between enjoying a glass of wine and cleaning it off the carpet.
Finally, some women say slight dizziness or light-headedness during this time also causes a lack of coordination.
What to do about it
Constantly having to clean up messes is annoying, takes time, and can start to drain our already flagging self-confidence, so here are a few tips to get through this second “awkward phase”:
- Slow down. Cleaning out the dishwasher is a crappy chore, and we all hurry through it, but you can avoid adding extra layers of crappiness by slowing down so things don’t slip through your fingers and break.
- Do less at once. Not having to make more than one trip from the car is kind of a fun challenge, but where you used to be comfortable balancing 18 boxes and bags in one trembling pile, now you may not. Consider it an opportunity to get a little more exercise, and bring in the groceries in multiple trips.
- Be mindful. This one is really important for women who may have osteopenia or osteoporosis. Pay attention to the terrain, step carefully off the curb, so you plant your foot soundly. Your depth perception may be a bit challenged right now, so give yourself that extra second to save yourself any risk of a fall.
- Get your eyes tested. Be sure you’re seeing well. Get drops for dry eyes, check the prescription on your glasses. If you’re knocking things over, you may just not be seeing them clearly and misjudging the distance.
- Exercise. In menopause particularly, balance and strength are critical to maintain. Balance, strength, and coordination exercises can help you regain more control of your body (think Tai Chi or qigong, or yoga). And bonus, the right exercise regimen can help strengthen muscles and retain more bone density, so it’s basically a win-win-win. Talk with a physical therapist, if possible, about exercises that help with motor control. These activities from wikiHow might help with fine motor skills, hand strength, and hand-eye coordination. My personal favorite tip: learn to juggle. It’s great for hand-eye coordination.
- Be patient with new things. Everyone is clumsy with unfamiliar tools or activities, and you may need a bit more time to master new skills. But learning new things can be really good for your brain, so give yourself extra time and leeway for making mistakes. Don’t give up or decide not to try something new just because you’re really going to look like the newb you are.
When to seek help*
An increased tendency to drop things and bump into furniture during this time is common, but if your “clumsiness” seems very sudden, very extreme, or comes with slurred speech, numbness, headaches, or difficulty swallowing, seek medical help right away.
Of course, if you have any concern that what you’re experiencing is more serious that a dip in estrogen, please talk to your doctor.
And now for the good news
While there’s not much research on this, what there is, plus anecdotes from women I’ve spoken with seem to indicate this is transitional and temporary, and most women regain motor control after their bodies adapt to less estrogen.
Of course, you can help yourself recover more completely by doing strength exercises. The lost muscle mass many women experience doesn’t regenerate without effort, and much of motor control depends on strength.
*This blog is for informational purposes only and is never intended to replace care by a medical professional.
Dropping things? Or maybe, like me, you are no longer capable of screwing a lid onto a jar without taking five or six runs at it? We’d love to hear about your experience, so please share in our community forums, on our Facebook page, or in Midlife & Menopause Solutions, our closed Facebook group.
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