Menopause is associated with almost too many unpleasant symptoms to mention. Women expect to experience hot flashes that they affectionately refer to as their “personal summer.” They may know that they may have a difficult time sleeping and, of course, that their menstrual cycle will not remain as consistent as it has in previous decades. In addition to these expected symptoms, women may also face some unexpected changes, including the onset of chronic back pain.
According to findings in recent research projects, including one study conducted in China, there is a link between menopause and certain kinds of back pain. This study monitored several women before they reached menopause and for a few years after menstruation ended. Researchers concluded that the drop in estrogen after menopause correlated with the onset of spinal disc degeneration. They also believed that the risk of disc-related back pain increased during the time of perimenopause and continued for years after.
Can This be Prevented?
There is no way to guarantee a life without back pain or disc degeneration. However, knowing that some risks are beyond one’s control, including hormonal changes, a few strategies may be implemented. Studies indicate that disc degeneration is partially related to aging and partially related to lifestyle factors. Those that can be controlled include:
- Avoiding tobacco use.
- Limiting alcohol consumption.
- Practicing good posture when standing, sitting, and exercising.
- Exercising several times a week.
- Engaging in movements that stretch the spine, such as yoga or Tai Chi.
- Modifying exercise as needed, switching higher impact activities like running to lower impact exercise like swimming.
Eating a healthy diet to manage weight and stress on the spine.
Managing spinal health doesn’t have to be difficult as we age. With help from a primary physician and, if needed, spinal specialist, women (and men) of all ages can protect their back from unnecessary strain. It is important to recognize the value of early care for back pain that recurs or persists for more than a week or two. Early care typically results in more conservative treatments and better results from nonsurgical intervention.