Why do women experience joint pain more than men?
Studies show that women are more likely to suffer from joint pain than men are; in fact 60 percent of all Americans affected by joint pain are women. Seems unfair, especially when joint pain restricts your ability to stay active and live your life to the fullest. There are some real reasons why joint pain hurts women more than men, but there is also help available for overcoming it.
With 360 joints in the human body, there is a high risk of experiencing pain in your lifetime. But, there are a few factors that put women (at any age) at a higher risk of developing joint pain:
The female structure. Women have increased joint and ligament mobility compared to men. In other words, women are more limber. This elasticity of the joints allows more movement and therefore greater risk for developing joint pain.
Estrogen. The female hormone, estrogen, plays a role in cartilage (the flexible tissue that makes up your joints) protection. When estrogen levels decrease, the amount of cushioning the cartilage provides also decreases. This is significant because the female body experiences estrogen decreases monthly during the menstrual cycle as well as during menopause.
Obesity. Although obesity is a factor for both men and women, women have a greater risk of obesity compared to men. Obesity increases the risk of joint pain due to higher levels of stress put on the joints. Studies show that every additional pound of body weight equals four pounds of weight in the knee.
Even though women are more susceptible to certain types of joint pain, there are steps you can take to minimize and stop the pain:
Maintain an appropriate weight. The more weight you carry, the more force on your joints.
Stay active. Find activities you enjoy that are low impact, such as swimming or cycling, and avoid activities that have repetitive motions.
Strengthen muscles. Strengthen the muscles that surround the joint. This will help protect and reduce the amount of stress placed on the joint. A physical therapist can help develop a strength routine.
Use the PRICE method (protect, rest, ice, compression, elevate). Protect the joint with a brace or wrap, rest the injured area, ice frequently, add compression to the area with a wrap and elevate above heart level to reduce joint swelling and pain.
This article originally ran as a post in Allina Health’s Healthy, Set, Go blog. It was authored by Aimee Klapach, MD. Klapach is an orthopedic surgeon and serves as chief medical officer providing orthopedic care to Minnesota United FC professional soccer team. Read more stories like this at allinahealth.org/healthysetgo.