If you're a woman, you've probably had back pain. Women have back pain
twice as often as men. Prevention is key.
Most Treatment is Non-Surgical
The woman’s wider pelvis and hormones influence the back. During
pregnancy, as hormone levels increase, ligaments become weaker causing
more back pain. Osteoporosis, or calcium loss, accelerates after
menopause. Bones get more fragile and even minor falls can result in
fractures. Each year osteoporosis causes 250,000 spinal fractures.
Changes in lifestyle can decrease back pain. Strengthening the “core
muscles” of the abdomen and back with weight training, Pilates, or pool
exercise therapy is beneficial. Impact sports, tennis, golf, and running
are harmful. Good shoes prevent injury. Heels should be flat, the toes
wide and soles well padded. Women should not wear men’s shoes which are
not made for women’s narrower heels. Purses should be light with the strap
worn over one shoulder and the neck. Instead of a heavy purse, try a
Women who do heavy work have more risk of back injury than men. Women
should avoid lifting over about thirty pounds. When lifting:
• put the feet at shoulder width
• keep the back and neck straight
• bend the hips, lift with the legs
• keep the load close to the body
Preventing osteoporosis will improve spine health. Weight-
bearing exercise and calcium are both very important. Pre-menopausal
women should take about 1,000 milligrams of calcium daily. Postmenopausal
women require 1,500. A glass of milk has only 300. Tums are a convenient
calcium source. Hormone replacement therapy is controversial. Fosamax,
although effective, has risks.
Ninety percent of people with back pain will recover without surgery in
six weeks. Midline back pain is caused by sprains, strains, or fractures.
Leg pain is caused by a
Exercise is good for spraining or straining injuries. It should be
started early. A physician or physical therapist can teach proper
techniques. Ice, heat, massage, acupuncture, and chiropractic all help
acute pain. Prolonged bed rest slows healing.
Pain medications are best used for short periods. Motrin-like
drugs relieve inflammation and are not addictive. Narcotics and muscle
relaxants treat severe pain. A TENS unit nerve stimulator, or a local
trigger point injection can also help.
Blocks Can Relieve Your Pain
For severe leg pain,
epidural injections may cure symptoms within
hours. These are safe, fast, and nearly painless.
Disc surgery relieves leg pain when all else fails. The disc is
repaired using minimally-invasive or laser techniques. Disc surgery is now
a thirty-minute outpatient procedure.
Back fusions are for midline back pain from fractures or instability.
Fusions were once major, eight-hour operations that required many months
of recovery. New techniques have reduced the surgical time to as little as
one and one-half hours. Scars can be minimal and it may be possible to
return to work within six weeks.
The treatment for osteoporotic fractures includes pain medicine and
braces. Most heal without surgery. Minimally-invasive procedures, like
kyphoplasty, are for severe pain that does not improve. Kyphoplasty is
done with a needle and can relieve pain within a few days.
Neurosurgeons are doctors who specialize in the spine and brain.
If You Have Back Problems See A Neurosurgeon
They care for most back problems. They have completed medical school,
internship, and a six-year residency. There are also good sources for
information on the internet. For woman’s health, see
National Library of Medicine site,
provides information on almost every medical topic.