Arthritis is when one or more joints turn stiff from inflammation, leading to pain that gets worse as one becomes older. While more men find themselves with arthritis before the age of 55, after 55 the scales tip towards women. Where arthritis occurs also tends to vary by sex. For men, the stiffness comes from the hips, for women the pain localizes around the hands or knees.
Why is it that women are at more risk for arthritis? Several factors come into play like genes, biology, hormones, and obesity.
You may have heard about how certain physical traits like eye color or hair color are passed down from parent to child. Diseases like arthritis can work the same way. History shows a link between women and their mothers who developed osteoarthritis (a branch of arthritis) at around the same area and a similar age.
The biological theory is that women’s joints tend to be less stable than men’s, making them more susceptible to injury. This lack of stability comes from how most women’s bodies develop to give birth. The tendons in a woman’s lower body are more flexible than a man’s, allowing the joints more movement. Women’s hips also tend to be wider than their knees, so their legs are not as aligned as men’s are. Lack of alignment can lead to more common knee injuries. Researchers also found that a woman developed a higher chance of arthritis the more often she gave birth.
Scientists found a possible relationship between estrogen and the cartilage that works as a cushion for the space between our joints and our bones. Lab studies demonstrated how estrogen protected the cartilage from inflammation, but once estrogen levels go down after menopause, that protection goes away. Since the cartilage is not accustomed to a standard degree of inflammation, it is more at risk to develop arthritis.
Although obesity is a challenge for many people, statistics typically show that more women than men qualify as obese. Every extra pound roughly means an extra three pounds to the knees and six pounds of pressure to the hips.
Arthritis treatments can vary depending on its intensity and location. A pain doctor can not realistically prescribe an effective treatment of pain medication, physical therapy, surgery, or change of lifestyle without knowing the patient’s needs. Garden State Pain Center’s medical team covers over 50 years of combined experience treating many forms of pain. If you are in the New Jersey area, contact our office today to learn how you can improve your arthritis.