Hormones are a powerful force in the human body, driving and affecting everything from the desire for sex to the difference in muscle mass between men and women to mood and skin condition. They may also have an effect on the frequency and intensity of back pain – especially in women.
Most women (and even some men) know that back pain, particularly in the lower back, is a fairly common symptom of pre-menstrual syndrome, PMS. Although the symptoms of PMS, and their severity, vary from woman to woman – some barely notice a change, some have severe symptoms – they are the result of hormonal changes leading up to menstruation. It’s not entirely clear why symptoms vary so widely, but it’s possible that in women who experience noticeable back pain during their period have a more marked shift in hormones too.
Pregnant women are also very familiar with back pain. Although the primary factors contributing to it are of course the significant weight gain and the subsequent shift in their center of gravity, hormones may also play a role: it’s possible that the surge in certain pregnancy-related hormones, cause the joints to become more lax, especially in the pelvis. Combined with the other factors, this means there’s less joint support, increasing the strain on the back.
At an older age, osteoporosis usually occurs around menopause, and is affected in large part by increases in estrogen and a decrease in other hormones. This disease causes weakening of the bones, and often affects the spine, causing it to compress; for this reason, back pain is a common side effect.
Although results have been inconclusive, some studies have suggested that women, due to their overall reproductive and musculoskeletal makeup, are more prone than men to back pain caused by hormone fluctuations in general.