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Bone & Orthopaedic Health

  • Understanding Women’s Orthopaedic Health

    woman with back problems

    Bone health is an important concern particularly for women. Women start with a lower bone density than men and lose bone mass more quickly as they age, especially around the time of menopause. This is why certain bone disorders such as osteoporosis, a condition that leads to brittle and fragile bones, affects women more than men. If left untreated, osteoporosis may cause patients to suffer fractures easily. Fractures of the hip and spine can have a severe impact on the mobility of the patients and in some cases lead to death.

    Apart from lower bone density, pregnancy also results in higher risk of orthopaedic disorders in women, especially in the back and spine. Take care of your orthopaedic health so that you can stay fit and active well into your senior years.

  • Common Back Problems in Women

    woman with back pain

    Women often experience back pain, especially in the lower back. Back pain can be caused by conditions that affect both women and men, such as muscle strain, disc herniation, arthritis, and degenerative spine conditions. Back pain may also be caused by conditions that affect women specifically, such as endometriosis, dysmenorrhea, premenstrual syndrome, and pregnancy.

    A common misconception about back problems is that rest is always the best back pain treatment. Rest may reduce pain and inflammation initially, but it will not treat the root cause of the injury. Prolonged rest may lead to weakened muscles and paradoxically prolong the period of recovery. While rest is essential, proper diagnosis and treatment are required to fully recover from your back problems.

    Lower back pain

    Lower back pain is one of the most common conditions related to spine problems. A common cause is gradual injury to the lower back muscles due to chronic overuse, poor posture, improper sleeping position or inappropriate lifting techniques. Back strain and muscular aches can also occur in women during pregnancy or when caring for their young child.

    These injuries may affect the facet joint that links 2 vertebrae together in the spinal column and the intervertebral discs that absorb shock between each vertebra. Everyday activities may over time lead to micro trauma in these areas and hinder smooth movement and function. As a result, there is pain, movement limitation and degeneration which may lead to general, non-specific lower back pain.

    Other possible causes of lower back pain in women include:

    • Disc herniation
    • Degenerative disc disease
    • Fracture due to osteoporosis
    • Endometriosis
    • Dysmenorrhea
    • Premenstrual syndrome

    Symptoms of back pain in women

    Signs and symptoms include pain in the back, pain or numbness in the feet, pain upon weight bearing, pain during coughing or sneezing, muscle spasms and limitation in movement.

    Treatment varies depending on the condition and severity of the injury. If you experience persistent pain in the neck or back, especially if associated with pain, numbness or weakness in the arms and legs, you should see a doctor for a clinical assessment. Suitable tests such as X-rays or MRIs may be needed for a proper diagnosis. Most of the time, treatment is conservative with rest, physiotherapy, appropriate exercise and medication. In some cases, surgery may become necessary to prevent disability. Speak to your doctor to understand the injury affecting your mobility and the treatment options available.

    Spondylosis

    Spondylosis commonly affects older women, and is more prevalent in women than in men. This may be due to the hormonal differences and lower bone density in women. Spondylosis, also known as spinal osteoarthritis, is a degenerative condition of the joints, ligaments and discs of the spine. Repetitive stress to the spine, trauma and age-related wear and tear are the primary causes of spondylosis. Other possible causes of spondylosis including bone overgrowths (called bone spurs), spinal disc dehydration, and stiff ligaments.

    Symptoms of spondylosis in women

    Common signs and symptoms include back pain, pain radiating down the legs and difficulty maintaining an upright posture. In severe cases, spondylosis may cause pressure on the nerve roots, leading to pain or a tingling sensation in the legs or arms. If there is persistent pain, it is recommended to see a doctor for a clinical assessment. Suitable tests such as X-rays or MRIs may be needed for a proper diagnosis.

    Treatment may include non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication (NSAIDS) to help alleviate the pain and physiotherapy. If your symptoms persist, or there is evidence of a severely compressed nerve, you may be recommended to undergo decompression surgery or a procedure known as spinal fusion. Talk to your doctor to understand your condition and the treatment that best suits you.

    Spinal Stenosis

    Spinal stenosis is the gradual narrowing of the spinal canal. The narrowed spinal canal places pressure on the spinal cord and nerve roots. Spinal stenosis commonly affects women of older age.

    The most common cause of spinal stenosis is osteoarthritis, which is the gradual wear and tear of the joints in the spine. Other possible causes include:

    • Disc herniation
    • Past surgery of the spine
    • Rheumatoid arthritis
    • Spinal tumour
    • Trauma to the spine
    Symptoms of spinal stenosis in women

    Symptoms of spinal stenosis include back pain, burning pain in the buttocks or legs, numbness or tingling in the buttocks or legs, reduced pain when leaning forward or sitting, and weakness in the legs.

    If there is persistent pain, it is recommended to see a doctor for a clinical assessment. Suitable tests such as X-rays or MRIs may be needed for a proper diagnosis. In some cases, surgery may be necessary to prevent disability.

    Spinal stenosis may result in a condition known as cervical myelopathy. In the late stages, cervical myelopathy results in degenerative changes in the neck and leads to severe dysfunction of the nerves. This may cause weakness, inability to control movement, loss of urine and bowel function, as well as the loss of ability to stand or walk. Speak to your doctor to understand your condition and the treatment options available.

  • Why is bone health important?

    Why is bone health important?

    Our bones have critical functions in our body. They give our body structure and allow us to move smoothly, protect our vital organs, and store important minerals such as calcium and phosphorus. Maintaining good bone health is essential for allowing us to enjoy full, active lives well into our senior years.

    The strength of our bones is primarily determined by our bone mass. Children and young adults have higher bone mass, and most of us reach our peak bone mass by the age of 30. After 30, we begin to gradually lose bone mass. People who achieve higher peak bone mass and have healthy lifestyle habits are less likely to develop osteoporosis.

  • What affects bone health

    What affects bone health

    Our bone health is affected by several factors. Some of these factors are beyond our control, such as sex, age, race, family history, and certain medical conditions. Our bone health is also greatly affected by our diet and lifestyle choices.

    Factors that put you at higher risk of osteoporosis include:

    • Age (being over 50 years of age)
    • Being of the female gender
    • Being of Caucasian or Asian race
    • Family history of osteoporosis
    • Having a low BMI of 19 or less
    • Lack of calcium in your diet
    • Sedentary lifestyle
    • Smoking and consumption of alcohol
    • Long-term use of certain medications, such as corticosteroids, methotrexate, proton pump inhibitors, and some anti-seizure medications
    • Medical problems such as coeliac disease, inflammatory bowel disease, kidney disease, liver disease, and cancer
  • Healthy Lifestyle Tips for your Spine

    woman stretching her back

    It is important to take food with sufficient calcium, have adequate exposure to sunlight for vitamin D, and perform regular weight-bearing exercises to build strong bones. This is true for women and men of all age groups.

    For women, scans for bone mineral density are recommended to be done around the time of menopause and subsequently once every year. Menopause, pregnancy and breastfeeding are common causes of osteoporosis. If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, it is important to get enough calcium and vitamin D. If not, your baby’s calcium needs will be met by taking calcium from your bones.

    The following lifestyle habits are recommended to help you keep your spine healthy:

    • Have enough calcium in your diet. The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for calcium is 1,000 mg per day for women aged 19 to 50 years, and 1,200 mg per day for women older than 50.
    • Get enough Vitamin D. Our bodies need vitamin D to absorb calcium properly. The RDA for vitamin D is 600 IU per day for adults 19 to 70 years old, and 800 IU per day for those older than 70. Good sources of vitamin D include sunlight exposure and a diet rich in oily fish, eggs, and fortified milk or cereals. You can also ask your doctor about taking vitamin D supplements.
    • Make sure you have enough vitamin C. Vitamin C stimulates the production of bone-forming cells. Vegetables are the best source of vitamin C, so make sure you include a lot of these in your diet.
    • Learn to lift items correctly without injuring the spine. Avoid carrying items weighing more than 10 pounds. When you need to lift a heavy object, do not bend over to pick up the object. Instead, kneel first and bring the object close to your waist.
    • Learn to lift items correctly without injuring the spine. Avoid carrying items weighing more than 10 pounds. When you need to lift a heavy object, do not bend over to pick up the object. Instead, kneel first and bring the object close to your waist.
    • Exercise regularly. Weight-bearing exercises, such as walking, jogging and climbing stairs, are best for building strong bones and slowing down bone loss. You can also perform strength training exercises for your abdominal muscles and lower back.
    • Maintain a healthy weight. People who are underweight have higher risk of bone disease, while having excess weight adds stress to your bones. Eat a healthy diet and avoid rapid weight loss or weight gain.
    • Avoid smoking and moderate your alcohol intake. Tobacco use and excessive alcohol consumption leads to loss of bone mass. Quit smoking and limit your alcohol intake to one drink a day.

    References:

    http://www.hrosm.com/orthopedic-injuries-men-women/
    https://www.mylifestages.org/health/back/lower_back_pain.page
    http://www.spinalcord.org/resource-center/askus/index.php
    http://www.spine-health.com/blog/7-back-pain-conditions-mainly-affect-women
    http://www.womenshealthmag.com/health/back-pain-0


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