It is estimated that around 80% of people will experience low back pain at some point during their lives. Statistics put women at a slightly higher incidence than men for suffering from low back pain. What causes this? Well, there are quite a few different things that can contribute to this.
At LivaFortis we are huge proponents of women’s health so we thought that it was only fitting that we do an article that looks at how women, specifically, experience low back pain and clear up some of the important questions around what causes it, how to treat it, and how to prevent it. Keep reading because we have everything that women need to know about their low back pain right here!
Throughout the different stages of our lives there are a variety of things that can potentially trigger low back pain. Here are some of those various stages and what you can expect with regards to low back pain:
Back Pain In Your 20s
In your 20s common causes of low back pain often include things like strenuous exercising, heavy lifting, or work-related injuries. Working long shifts in physically demanding jobs such as nursing, the military, the police or fire departments, hairdressing, or even dentistry can all lead to that first back pain incident. Your 20s is when you are likely to experience your first back pain episode which can then flare up later in life.
Repetitive picking up of babies and toddlers is another major cause of low back pain in your 20s - even if it is just from babysitting and they are not your own children. According to Data USA, 94% of childcare workers are female. So although research shows that many women are waiting until later in life to have children, women make up the majority of childcare workers.
Menstruation Or Uterine Dysfunction
Dysmenorrhea is a uterine dysfunction that is often the cause of frequent painful cramps for women during menstruation. It can also cause significant pain in the lower back. Dysmenorrhea can be classified as either primary or secondary, but it doesn’t matter which one you have in terms of your experience of low back pain. Primary dysmenorrhea occurs when a woman first starts menstruating and can continue throughout her life. It can bring on severe cramping of the uterus which can cause severe low back pain.
Endometriosis is a condition that occurs when endometrial tissue appears outside of the uterus in areas like the pelvic cavity. This tissue is very responsive to hormonal changes that occur within the body and can cause pain, spotting (bleeding) between periods, and pain. Endometriosis can cause heavy, painful periods, scar tissue build up, and chronic pain, including back pain.
Endometriosis isn’t just something that happens in your 20s. It can occur at any menstrual cycle stage, but the average age of diagnosis is between 25 and 35 years of age.
Symptoms of endometriosis include:
Pelvic pain that radiates down the legs
Throbbing pain that can present from mild to very severe.
Abdominal or lower back pain
Painful sexual intercourse
Pain walking or standing
Painful bowel movements/ rectal pain/ constipation
Pain when urinating or urinary urgency
Pelvic cavity inflammation
Painful scar tissue buildup in the bladder, fallopian tubes, and ovaries.
Endometriosis may initially be diagnosed by a doctor finding endometrial growths upon a pelvic exam and requesting imaging tests to assist in identification of endometrial cysts.
This is another condition that can affect women at any time during their lives but data indicates that although women are delaying pregnancy later than ever before, the average age of a woman at her first pregnancy, in the US, is 26. There are quite a few reasons why pregnancy can cause lower back pain. Here are some of the most common ones:
The average woman gains between 25 and 35 pounds during pregnancy. All of that extra weight can be challenging for your spine to support, especially if it isn’t used to carrying that amount of weight. This can be a definite cause of lower back pain. The weight of the baby can also put specific pressure on the nerves and blood vessels of the pelvis and back.
As your body weight increases and the baby starts to grow your center of gravity can start to shift as well. You start to move differently, adjusting your posture when standing, sitting, and walking, and this can affect your spine, putting pressure on it in different ways, causing low back pain.
During pregnancy, a hormone called relaxin is produced. This hormone helps the ligaments in your pelvic area stretch and relax so that they are looser when the baby is born. Unfortunately this super important hormone can also cause the ligaments in your spine to be more relaxed, and instead of this being a good thing, it can actually lead to instability and pain in your back.
A common cause of low back pain as a result of pregnancy is a condition called “Diastasis recti”. As your uterus expands your left and right abdominal muscles (the rectus abdominis) can separate, sometimes causing your belly to stick out. This is a very common condition, affecting as much as two thirds of pregnant women. Normally this condition will fix itself but sometimes it doesn’t and this can cause pain in the lower back since the core muscles are not able to support it properly.
Emotional stress can cause muscle tension in the back, which may be felt as back pain or back spasms. You may find that you experience an increase in back pain during stressful periods of your pregnancy.
Back Pain In Your 30s
Just like in your 20s, repetitive picking up of babies and toddlers is a major cause of low back pain in your 30s. This time around, though, there is a greater chance that they are yours. The average age at which women have their first child is 28. The average age of a childcare worker is 36. Exerting too much force on your back — such as by picking up and carrying children — can cause injury. Doing these motions repetitively, especially if you are twisting your spine, can cause significant back issues.
Premenstrual Dysmorphic Disorder
PMDD is a more severe form of premenstrual syndrome (PMS). PMDD is a serious and chronic medical condition that requires medical attention. With PMS sufferers often experience significant pain and cramps. Those who suffer from PMDD experience these symptoms even more intensely, so much so that they can have trouble functioning in their daily lives. Fortunately PMDD is less common than PMS.
Individuals with a family history of depression and other mood disorders may be at increased risk for experiencing PMDD. The main symptoms that distinguish PMDD from other mood disorders or menstrual conditions is when symptoms start and how long they last.
Symptoms typically start the week before your period and end shortly after your period is over. There are certain treatments that have been shown to be effective in managing the symptoms of PMDD so you should definitely speak with your healthcare provider if you suffer from this debilitating condition.
Low Back Pain In Your 40s and 50s (and 60s)
Getting older can be tough on our health and unfortunately back pain in women increases significantly with age. Just like with heart disease, as we go through menopause, our risk of low back pain is actually higher than with men. In fact, one of the most common musculo-skeletal issues that women face during menopause is chronic low back pain.
As we enter menopause our estrogen levels lower which can cause issues for our lower backs. Estrogen helps to maintain the tissues that contain collagen which is found in the discs between our vertebrae (intervertebral discs). Who knew our spines need collagen as much as our faces, right? These lower estrogen levels in our spine can actually lead to more serious conditions like disc degeneration. It is estimated that more than 50% of perimenopausal women will experience musculo-skeletal pain associated with estrogen deficiency.
Lower estrogen levels in menopause can also increase your risk of developing osteoporosis (or osteopenia) and a loss of bone density over time. This can also have a significant impact on the health of your spine and the incidence of lower back pain.
Issues That Can Affect Back Pain In Females At Any Age
No matter what your age, having poor posture can put you at risk for low back pain. Poor posture can be from prolonged sitting in the carpool lane, standing on one leg for too long at your local bar, slouching at your desk, or from wearing your high heels for too long. While none of these are bad for short periods of time, when we do them for a long period of time, or we do them on a repetitive basis it puts strain on the wrong ligaments and muscles that support our spine and that can cause lower back pain.
As women it seems unlikely that we ever have time to even contemplate being sedentary but there are certain things that we do during the day that can mimic a sedentary lifestyle. Sitting at desks and computers all day can increase your risk of lower back pain, as well as driving your kids to the thousands of after school activities that they choose to participate in. While you might feel like you are doing a lot (and you are!) more movement is needed to help decrease your chances of having low back pain.
Setting a timer on your watch or FitBit can help remind us to get up and walk around every so often and prevent us from sitting for too long. Sitting for prolonged periods of time can be a major cause of back pain, cause increased stress of the back, neck, arms and legs and can add a tremendous amount of pressure to the back muscles and spinal discs. If you are driving your kids to different activities maybe take a walk when you get home or stand for a bit in the car park.
Sadly, as we get older, it is often not the intense activities that cause back pain, but rather the everyday things, done just a little too far to one side, or a little too quickly. Something as silly as trying to get your sports bra off or fighting with a fitted sheet can cause us significant lower back pain. It’s not just incorrect lifting that does it. Taking a little time to stretch and warm up our muscles each day can go a long way to combating these types of injuries. Staying physically active can also help to prevent the loss of muscle tone and strength that often occurs as we age.
Home Remedies For Low Back Pain In Females
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Over the counter medications (such as ibuprofen)
Data shows that women are at a slightly higher chance of experiencing lower back pain than men, and this only increases with age. Depending on what stage of life you are at, your lifestyle, and your medical history, your low back pain could be caused by a variety of things.
Fortunately we know what sort of things to look out for in women and there are certain things that you can do to help reduce your chances of having low back pain or recovering from it a bit faster. The treatment for lower back pain depends on the underlying cause. In many cases, you can try home remedies first. But, if your back pain doesn’t improve or gets worse, follow up with your doctor for diagnosis and treatment.
As women we often find ourselves putting the needs of others in our lives first and we don’t always make time for our health. Research found that, during the pandemic, 38% of women reported skipping their yearly check-up or routine tests compared to only 26% of men. Going for regular health checks and discussing your concerns with your healthcare provider is important to living a long and healthy life. No matter what stage of your life you are in, taking care of your health is an investment that will pay huge dividends in the long run!
The treatment for lower back pain depends on the underlying cause. In many cases, you can try home remedies first. But, if your back pain doesn’t improve or gets worse, follow up with your doctor for diagnosis and treatment.