Anyone can be at an increased risk of back pain if they are in poor physical health, overweight, have a physically strenuous occupation or are overweight. But can gender also put you at greater risk?
One study has suggested that women develop chronic low back pain and sciatica more than men. According to the study, the gene variant that promotes chronic pain in women suppresses pain in men. The research encompassed nearly 300 patients who suffered from disc prolapse; researchers followed up with patients a year after they were initially admitted for treatment. In the study, it was revealed that men also recovered more quickly from their pain.
According to the Center for Disease Control & Prevention’s Summer Health Statistics for U.S. Adults in 2009, 30% of women suffered from low back pain, compared to 26% of men.
Additionally, women are more likely to suffer from back pain at a specific point in their life, when they are pregnant. Several studies have found that between 50 and 70% of women experience back pain while pregnant. The increase in hormones, additional weight, changes in posture, and stress all contribute to the back pain.
Back Pain Conditions More Common in Women
As women are more likely to suffer from chronic back pain, they are also more likely to suffer from specific conditions that are the underlying cause of the pain.
Coccydynia is a term used for tailbone pain. Women are five times more likely to suffer from a tailbone injury, which may occur during a difficult childbirth. A tailbone injury may also be worse as the position of the tailbone in women is less-protected. Immediate and severe pain when sitting, pain during bowel movements, and a deep ache in and around the tailbone are symptoms of this condition.
Spondylolisthesis occurs when one vertebra slips forward, over the one below it. The slip can irritate a spinal nerve root and cause back pain, most commonly in the lumbar spine. Women are three times more likely than men to suffer from degenerative spondylolisthesis. Lower bone density and osteoarthritis, which is also more common in women, are potential reasons for the increased risk in women.
Piriformis syndrome refers to the spasming of the piriformis muscle, located in the buttocks. Spasms in this muscle can irritate the sciatic nerve and cause pain, numbness, and tingling along the back of the leg and into the foot. One study suggests that piriformis syndrome is most common in women between the ages of 40 and 60. Additionally, women are four times more likely than men to suffer from piriformis muscle spasms.
Sacroiliac Joint Dysfunction
The sacroiliac joint, also known as the SI joint, is located between the upper body and pelvis. There are two SI joints in the lower back on each side of the spine. The main job of the SI joint is to carry the weight of the upper body when standings or walking. Low back and leg pain are common if you suffer from SI joint dysfunction. The impact of a pregnancy is one reason why women are more likely to suffer from SI joint dysfunction.
Recognizing the increased risk of these conditions can help in prevention. Proper posture, using lumbar support when at home or work, a healthy diet and exercise regimen, and regular chiropractic visits can help women keep their spine healthy.