The Lowdown on Low Back Pain
(and Other Aches)

 

Back Pain in Women

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

Causes 
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.

Prevention
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 backpack.

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.

Treatment
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 pinched nerve.

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.

Minimally Invasive 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.

More Information
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 www.4woman.gov. The National Library of Medicine site, www.nlm.nih.gov, provides information on almost every medical topic.

 

 






The information in this site briefly describes issues related to medical treatments, and has been licensed by from Northern California Neurosurgery Medical Group, Inc., who is solely responsible for said content.  This web site is not a substitute for good medical care or for a consultation with a spine specialist. It should not be used to plan your treatment. The well considered advice of a specialist who has personally examined you is always superior to even the best internet pages.


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Last modified: 07/27/08