A study published in 2022 reported 568.4 million global cases of prevalent lower back pain (LBP) in 2019. That’s for both men and women, but the incidence rate was higher in females.
Hormonal differences are some of the reasons women are more susceptible to LBP. Research also suggests females have a higher pain perception and sensitivity than males. There’s also the bone density factor: women’s bones, which are less dense than men’s, are more prone to injury.
But what exactly are the causes of lower back pain in women?
Keep reading, as we’ve listed and explained the primary culprits of female LBP below.
Dysmenorrhea, or menstrual cramps, is a uterine dysfunction associated with menstrual periods. It causes painful throbbing in the abdomen, often before and during menstruation.
Unfortunately, such cramps also predispose women to low back pain symptoms. In some women, the pain can even radiate from the lower back to the thighs.
During pregnancy, the uterus expands, stretching and weakening the abdominal muscles. Moreover, that expansion alters a woman’s posture, putting excess strain on the back. There’s also the extra weight gained during pregnancy; it places more stress on the joints.
Furthermore, many hormonal changes occur to prepare the body for labor. For example, they cause a loosening of the joints and ligaments attaching the pelvis to the spine.
All those changes can result in back pain, especially in the lumbar area. Indeed, researchers note that 30% to 78% of pregnant women report LBP. What’s more, it can persist after giving birth.
Endometriosis is a condition in which endometrial tissue grows outside the uterus. Instead of lining just the uterus, the tissue can cover the ovaries or fallopian tubes. Sometimes, it may even develop around the bowel and urinary tract.
Pain affecting various body parts is the most common symptom of endometriosis. For instance, it can trigger dysmenorrhea, pain during or after sex, pelvic pain, and low back pain.
Researchers say that 70% of women in perimenopause experience estrogen deficiency-related symptoms. That includes musculoskeletal pain, which more than half of perimenopausal women develop.
Various types of back pain can occur in women going through the perimenopausal stage. However, a primary complaint is chronic back pain in the lumbar region.
Estrogen deficiency can cause those symptoms because it plays a role in vitamin D usage in the body. Vitamin D, in turn, is essential for the effective absorption of calcium. Thus, the bones and muscles can weaken if the body is low on either.
The problem is that estrogen levels tank during all menopausal stages. That’s also why women already in these phases of their life may start living with back pain, including LBP.
A hernia is a condition in which an internal organ or part pushes through other structures. There are many types, but the most common are inguinal and femoral hernias. They can also be direct or indirect.
According to this guide on direct vs indirect hernia, the former is due to muscle weakening. On the other hand, the latter is more of a congenital condition.
In general, hernias are more prevalent in males, but pregnancy can put women at risk, too. One reason is that hernias often result from strains on the abdominal area. The changes that occur during pregnancy, in turn, can do all that.
Even worse, abdominal hernias can cause pain that radiates to the lower back and thighs.
A spinal disk sits between each of the spine’s 24 vertebrae (bones). These rubbery disks function like shock absorbers, allowing you to bend and twist. They can do all that thanks to the gel-like fluid they contain that makes them flexible.
Unfortunately, spinal disks can herniate due to many factors, particularly age and weight. While more common in men, women can also get them, especially during pregnancy. Being overweight or having obesity can also increase one’s risk for disk herniation.
A herniated disk can cause pain in the lower back if its gel-like substance leaks out. The unpleasant sensation often arises from the bulge pressing on nearby spinal nerves.
Bone and Muscle Degeneration
Osteoporosis, a disease that degrades the bones, is more common in women. Indeed, of the estimated 10 million Americans aged 50 or older, 8 million are women, and only 2 million are men. On top of that are the 43 million U.S. adults with low bone mass, of which 27 million are women.
There are usually no symptoms during the earliest stages of bone loss. However, back pain, including in the lumbar area, can occur once the bones have weakened. That can happen if the bones have fractured or collapsed.
Another age-related condition that occurs in women and can cause pain is sarcopenia. It results from the loss of skeletal muscle mass and function, in which menopause is a factor. Experts associate this with chronic LBP and lumbar spinal stenosis (LSS).
LSS, in turn, can cause further lower back and lower extremity pain. Moreover, it can decrease physical function, causing even more bone and muscle loss.
Lack of Exercise
More than 6 in 10 women in the U.S. do not meet the recommended guidelines for physical activity. More than one in four aren’t even active at all!
Unfortunately, a sedentary lifestyle can lead to earlier bone and muscle degradation. Exercise, after all, is essential to keep the bones, muscles, and joints in top condition.
Moreover, physical activity is effective in controlling weight and minimizing body fat. As mentioned above, weight is a risk factor in developing pain conditions.
It’s no wonder, then, that inactive women can suffer from low back pain.
Fortunately, a lack of exercise is a preventable cause of back pain since it’s a lifestyle choice. So, that should be enough reason to put more pep into your step.
Seek Help for These Causes of Lower Back Pain in Women
As you can see, there are many causes of lower back pain in women, from hormones to lack of exercise. The good news is that many back pain treatment options exist, from drugs to physical therapy. So if you suffer from chronic LBP, don’t just “live” with it; instead, seek professional help ASAP.
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