A Chinese study that followed women during and after menopause found a strong link between a reduction in estrogen (the female reproductive hormone) and spinal disc wear (degeneration). Results suggest women going through menopause have a greater risk of developing disc-related pain during this time and in the years that follow. Fortunately, there are ways postmenopausal women may be able to prevent—or at least reduce their risk of developing—back pain.
A diet containing nutrient-rich foods can keep the bones, discs, and soft tissues that support the spine strong and healthy before, during, and after menopause. Women’s diets tend to be low in iron and calcium, so you may benefit more from foods that include:
• Dairy products, fish, and green leafy veggies to get more calcium
• Nuts, poultry, and enriched grain products to increase iron intake
• 1 1/2 to 2 cups of fruits and veggies per day to meet other nutritional needs
As you get older, it’s not always easy to get all the vitamins and minerals you need from your diet alone. If this is the case for you, talk to your doctor or a Los Angeles spine surgeon about appropriate nutritional supplements.
Exercise produces chemicals called endorphins that can naturally ease back pain. Regular exercise also strengthens the core muscles that take some of the burden off the spine. Stretching before you get active is equally important to prevent back spasms and related strains and sprains.
Being physically active may also reduce your risk of developing osteoporosis, a bone-related disease more common in postmenopausal women. However, you may want to avoid strenuous forms of exercise that could place too much pressure on your spinal bones. Lower-impact options include:
• Swimming, water aerobics, and other exercises you can do in water
• Low-impact aerobic activities, such as walking
• Yoga, tai chi, and similar “controlled movement” forms of exercise
Slouching, sitting for long periods in the same position (especially if you lean too far to one side or the other), and sleeping in a way that throws off your spinal alignment are just some of the poor posture habits that can contribute to back pain. Watching your posture as you go through menopause maintains an even balance in the stress your spine endures from your daily movements.
Tobacco products can affect circulation, which could affect how nutrients get to your spine during and after menopause. Excessive alcohol consumption should be avoided as well for similar reasons. Maintaining a healthy weight is also good for your spine as your body adjusts to age-related changes.
Even if you follow the advice discussed above, you may still experience back pain flare-ups as you go through menopause. The good news is there are many nonsurgical ways to ease this type of discomfort. Some patients find that heating pads and ice packs work best, while others benefit more from brief periods of rest or the use of over-the-counter pain meds. If your discomfort persists, check in with your doctor or a spine specialist.
Intermittent back pain isn’t unusual among menopausal and postmenopausal women, but if you’re experiencing severe or persistent back pain, make sure to see a spinal health specialist for proper diagnosis and treatment. The pioneering physicians from The Spine Institute have years of experience with every type of back pain, and they lead the industry in innovative treatment methods, including alternatives to spinal fusion. Los Angeles patients should call one of our friendly representatives at 310-828-7757 to schedule a consultation.