Why women suffer more from back pain

Women tend to suffer more from back pain than men. Physiological reasons for this disparity are:

  1.  Periods – Backache is common during periods but is usually cyclical and disappears once the periods are underway or end. However, there is a condition called endometriosis where cells from the lining of the womb implant abnormally in the pelvis and back. This can give rise to excruciating pain many days before the period starts and persist long after the period ends.
  2. Pregnancy increases women’s vulnerability to back problems. During pregnancy, hormonal and other body changes result in:                    a. Loosening and weakening of ligaments                                                b. Abnormal lordotic posture with the tummy jutting out in front and the      buttocks thrust backwards.                                                                c. Progressively increasing weight due to increase in fat and the growing        baby                                                                                                               It is estimated that between 40% and 60% of pregnant women get back pain due to these changes.
  3. Caring for babies and young children – breast feeding, bathing, picking up, etc. adds to the risk of back pain. These acts involve lifting the baby at a time when the ligaments and muscles of the back are still lax. Incorrect lifting may result in severe back pain.
  4. Menopause and peri-menopause – Estrogen is essential for Vitamin D3 formation in the body. In turn, Vitamin D3 is required for calcium absorption from the food in the intestine and its uptake in bone. As estrogen levels decline at and around menopause, the bones start becoming brittle, a condition known as osteoporosis. Neck and back pain often begins or increases with age.

Social causes

  • Domestic:

There are also social reasons as to why women are at greater risk of back pain than men. Women still undertake the majority of domestic tasks that places them at high risk of back pain:

  • Shopping – carrying heavy loads
  • Cleaning – bending, twisting, pushing and pulling
  • Ironing – standing and twisting
  • Carrying heavy objects
  • Gardening
  • Vacuuming

Thus while back pain in men is often a result of an injury, women suffer from back pain as part of their everyday lives, a result of long-standing conditions or activities, including domestic work and child care.

  • At the workplace:

The kind of jobs women do in the workplace also contributes a great deal to the increased incidence of back pain amongst them. Women are generally given tasks that involve:

  1. Repetitive tasks such as pushing, pulling or twisting of the body in jobs such as those performed by supermarket check out staff, production line workers, cleaners and machinists
  2. Sitting or standing for long periods. Women are more likely to get back pain if they work in the health services, retailing, hotel and catering, banking, finance and insurance industries. Shop and factory floor workers, keyboard and telephone/call centre workers and bank tellers who stand or sit for long periods are especially prone to get back pain
  3. Lifting, bending, stretching and reaching in jobs such as child and social care workers, nurses, teachers of small children and counter staff. Nurses often get back pain when lifting patients from the bed or chair.

Lifestyle causes

Women have additional lifestyle demands that lead to back pain:

  1. High heels to make the legs look longer and tilt the back
  2. Tight clothes to emphasize slimness – this also restricts easy movement
  3. Breast implants that increase breast size and strain the back
  • Excerpt from “Say Goodbye to Back Pain” by Dr. V. Ranjan. Available at http://www.amazon.in/Say-Goodbye-Back-Pain-Ranjan-ebook/dp/B004S7BAO6

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