Women can keep spine healthy after 35: Here’s how

The spine is crucial to overall body movement and structure and simple lifestyle changes can help in the improvement and maintenance of long-term bone and spine health

Spina Bifida affects many

The backbone or spine is integral to the overall body functioning as it provides the necessary central support and structure to the body and protects the spinal cord. Importantly, the spine provides mobility and flexibility by helping you stand upright, walk, sit, or bend as it links multiple parts of the musculoskeletal system. However, women are particularly vulnerable to developing spine or back problems due to gender-specific factors. Largely, pre and post-pregnancy hormonal changes, weight fluctuation, reduced bone mass, and menopause can escalate spine issues in women, especially with increasing age. Therefore, it is important to maintain a healthy spine for overall long-term mobility and health through timely prevention, diagnosis and management.

There are certain factors which can increase the risk of developing back issues, especially among women:

  1. Pregnancy: Women experience multiple changes to their bodies during pregnancy and post-partum including hormonal, physical, and mental. Particularly, back pain is a common pregnancy symptom that women experience in either earlier or later stages of pregnancy. The likelihood of developing back pain is higher amongst woman with prior lower back issues. Pre and post pregnancy caused weight gain and associated changes in the pelvis area can cause piriformis syndrome or back pain resulting from spasms in the buttock area. Back problems can escalate among women with continued weight gain post-pregnancy and during later life stages.
  2. Awesome: As older women experience menopause usually during their 50’s or 60’s, their estrogen levels decrease. Therefore, women may face increased risk of developing degenerative spondylolisthesis or slip in the spine’s vertebra. The condition can cause lower back pain that often extends to the legs. Also, women can experience reduced bone density and strength due to inadequate estrogen hormone post-menopause and rapid bone loss over time. Therefore, post-menopausal women particularly become higher-risk groups for developing certain bone conditions ie, spinal osteoporosis or reduced bone density resulting in acute mid and lower back pain.
  3. Medical conditions: Multiple women develop gynecological disorders such as endometriosis or uterine growth outside the womb. Women with endometriosis can be more susceptible to lower or even chronic back pain, especially during menstrual cycles. Commonly, obesity causes unnecessary strain and the weakening of the back muscles.

Largely, simple lifestyle changes can strengthen bone health and overall long-term spine health:

  1. Maintain proper diet and weight: Unhealthy weight due to pregnancy, hormone imbalances, obesity or poor lifestyle can excessively strain back muscles and ligaments. Therefore, women must maintain a healthy weight through a low-fat diet rich in whole grains, and vegetables to prevent weakened back muscles and chronic back pain. Also, incorporating bone-strengthening foods rich in protein and calcium such as yogurt and milk can improve bone health and prevent associated back problems. Therefore, women can prevent common bone related diseases with increasing age. Lastly, proper daily water intake can reduce slip disc risks.
  2. Active lifestyle: Sitting in a place for longer durations at home or work can cause tightened back muscles and aggravate backaches. Also, a sedentary life contributes to a host of lifestyle-related disorders including obesity. So, one must ensure proper posture frequent mobility and regular exercise to build long-term muscle strength and flexibility. Also, incorporating certain core strengthening exercises can reduce the overall burden on the spine and prevent severe spine injuries.
  3. Proper posture: Commonly, maintaining an upright posture when standing or sitting can prevent the majority of back problems. Similarly, an improper form when lifting heavy weights during exercise or in general can burden the back muscles and even cause locked or ruptured spinal joints in severe cases. Therefore, it is important to maintain proper form to prevent injury caused by pain and long recovery periods.

The spine is crucial to overall body movement and structure. Simple lifestyle changes can help in the improvement and maintenance of long-term bone and spine health. Women, in particular, can reduce their risk of developing general back and related conditions that affect them at different stages of life. It is also critical to get a timely diagnosis and treatment for back problems for early prevention.

The author is a Consultant at Spine Surgery, Manipal Hospital, Gurugram. Views are personal.

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