Women Affected More Severely With Lower Back Pain

Lower back pain is a very common injury and complaint but what is surprising is that many women are affected, just as men. Researchers find it surprising because - as a rule - women live more healthy lives than men and tend to do less manual labor than men. That being said, women do tend to be at risk for developing chronic pain disorders and they tend to react more to injuries and traumas than men. In one study of over 5000 people, women were more likely to have back pain, although there was also a higher number of people who complained of back pain who were overweight, those who tended to have physical symptoms as a reaction to psychological triggers, had little social support, as well as those who were sedentary, smokers, the elderly, and/or in lower socioeconomic groups. However, even taking all those factors into account, women still had more back pain than men.

The authors of this article wanted to review the findings of a study that looked investigated the incidence of lower back pain to see how women presented with lower back pain and the course it takes, compared with men. The authors also wanted to find out if the sex of the patient affected if and how they sought medical help.

There were data from 1342 patients, 778 of whom were women. The patients all completed questionnaires before and after being seen by a general practitioner. The patients were contacted again after four weeks, six months and one year. Patients' ability to function was assessed using the Hannover Functional Ability Questionnaire (HFAQ).

After the data were gathered, the researchers found that women were, in generally, more likely to have more problems functioning with their lower back pain than men. They also were more prone to recurring back pain or chronic, long-term back pain. Finally, women also tended to have more depression with the back pain. As for use of the healthcare system, at first it appeared that women sought help more than med, but that evened out. Although women did use more medications then men, they missed less work than men, although the amount wasn't significant.

The authors concluded that knowing that there is a difference in how women experience lower back pain should encourage research into sex-specific care.

Jean-Francois Chenot, MD, MPH, et al. Sex Differences in Presentation, Course, and Management of Low Back Pain in Primary Care. In Clinical Journal of Pain. September 2008. Vol. 24. No. 7. Pp. 578-584.

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