Back problems are a leading cause of chronic pain among Americans, but broken down demographically, women are more likely to suffer from back pain than men. This may seem counterintuitive; men are more likely to work in construction and factory settings that could lead to a back injury, so what is it that makes women so susceptible to back problems? The causes are complex but knowing the risks can help you treat and manage your back pain more effectively.
Breast Size And Posture
Every woman knows the discomfort of an ill-fitting bra, but for women with large breasts, the problem is much more serious than that. Even with appropriate support, large breasts can place an inordinate strain on the upper back and cause poor posture and spine problems. Many women unintentionally exacerbate this problem by slouching to hide or minimize their breast size.
If you have chronic upper back pain, you may find that wearing a well-fitted sports bra rather than a traditional underwire, or seeking out a custom bra, helps reduce the pain. Physical therapy can also help you learn skills to improve your posture and strengthen your core so that you can better support the weight of your breasts without suffering muscle strains.
Fractures And Osteoporosis
One unfortunate aspect of female biology is our tendency towards accelerated bone loss – a natural, yet dangerous part of aging. Typically between the age of 30 and the onset of menopause, women lose bone density more quickly than average, causing the bones to thin and making them more prone to breaks. Bone loss slows down again in the years after menopause, but the damage is already done, leading to osteoporosis.
Osteoporosis can lead to compression fractures in the spine in which a small section of the bone collapses, leading the spine to break and curve. This is why you may sometimes see older women with a characteristic “hunchback” – it’s often the result of a progression of fractures and is more common in smaller women.
Women with osteoporosis are also at a higher risk of injury in car accidents. That’s because women with osteoporosis can suffer compression fractures from even minor jostling, depending on the severity of the case. For example, some may be fine unless they suffer a fall or car crash, while others can incur small fractures from minor, everyday events like sneezing.
Arthritis And Joint Pain
Though we typically think of arthritis as affecting the hands, knees, and hips – the major joints in the body – most of us forget that our backs are actually made up of a series of joints that make bending and turning possible. Arthritis, then, can affect the back and cause inflammation and pain, preventing you from participating in daily activities.
Arthritis is typically worsened by high impact activities, but treatment with medication and aqua therapy can be very effective at reducing the pain. Women tend to suffer arthritis as higher rates than men because of the inflammatory nature of the disease – our bodies tend to be more reactive and harbor higher levels of inflammation more generally. Eating a low-inflammation diet free of foods like dairy, gluten, and nightshades can also help ease the pain.
Most women will suffer from back pain at some point in their lives, but you don’t have to suffer in silence. Break free of the restrictions and put pain in its place. From physical therapy to proper diet, back pain shouldn’t be the center of your life. Put it back on the sidelines.