Ladies, do you ever wonder if your spine and joint conditions differ from men? The answer is a resounding YES. Absolutely. While men and women are both prone to orthopedic and musculoskeletal challenges, women are at higher risk for some conditions. How does gender affect orthopedic injuries and conditions? Let’s take a look at some of those higher risk conditions and see how women may prevent risk.
Feet and Ankles
With 26 bones, 33 joints, and over 100 muscles, tendons, and ligaments in each foot it’s no wonder your feet are an accident waiting to happen. Genetics is a huge factor and women are two times more likely to experience foot injuries than men. What causes the difference between men and women? You guessed it … shoes! Stiletto heels, flip flops, pointy toes, wrong size, stylish but no support … any of these can cause a number of painful conditions like hammertoes, plantar fasciitis, bunions, poor posture, back pain, and ankle strain. Your feet are your foundation, so treat them well.
Summer is a particularly dangerous time with flimsy sandals. Even going barefoot, while freeing and comfortable, is a no-no. So, what’s a girl to do? Start a habit of stretching your calf muscles daily. Then, opt for wedges when you want height, look for shoes with arch support, and alternate heel heights daily. There are some great stylish choices that provide comfort and support. Start with www.Vionic.com for some stylish, yet practical choices.
ACL tears can be higher risk for women. Theories have speculated that the space in a woman’s knee is narrower than a man, thus making her a higher risk. Strengthening is key to prevention. Try leg raises (both seated and lying on your side). Calf raises may also be helpful. As with any exercise routine always check with your physician prior to incorporating any new activity into your regimen.
Weight can also inflict devastation on your knees. Every step when walking places two times your body weight on your knees. If you’re a runner, consider that can place up to 10 times your body weight on your knees. Keep your weight in check to a healthy BMI (body mass index) and your knees with thank you!
Headaches have a surprisingly high degree of difference between men and women. Of U.S. headache suffers 70% have a family history, and, for chronic migraines, 85% are female. Reasons, aside from genetics, have been attributed to diet, allergies, sound, stress, hormones, and posture. There are many treatment options from OTC (over-the-counter) medications to Botox injections of the head and neck. These injections help to relax the muscles and relieve chronic pain.
Ladies, it’s time to rethink your shoulder bag. This is a common struggle among women. A large shoulder bag that is overstuffed can misalign your entire body and cause a multitude of other related conditions including poor gait and posture. Unsuitable posture and gait can lead to balance issues and hazardous falls.
Most problematic is that “Heavy Purse Syndrome” (yes, it’s real) can create shoulder and neck pain from muscle overuse. Consider a few easy fixes like a wide strap for your bag and frequently alternating sides to carry. A routine check of contents may find you are able to remove items you no longer need … do you really need to carry your partner’s keys or all those pens and candy? Your shoulder bag should weigh no more than 10 pounds, and, the less weight the better for your musculoskeletal well-being.
Back and Neck
Your spine and neck can take a beating from anything like your purse, your shoes, posture, texting, or even weak muscles. We’ve already discussed proper fitting shoes and smart shoulder bags, but texting is something we hardly consider. Hunched-over texting with poor posture can put as much as 60 pounds of stress on the neck. Mom was right, “sit up straight”! Strengthening your core will help avoid stress on your back and neck.
If you lift heavy objects, support your spine by maintaining a wide foot stance of support and lowering yourself from the knees and hips, NOT your waist. Maintain a straight back.
Pregnant women are more susceptible to low back pain due to swelling tissues along with changes in the musculoskeletal system and additional weight in front. If a woman has back pain prior to pregnancy, she is two times more likely to experience it during the pregnancy.
Osteopenia / Osteoporosis
There’s no denying that the aging process for women and men may sometimes be unkind. Osteoporosis is a common condition affecting over 10 million Americans and 80% of those are female. It is predicted that one in two women over the age of 50 with osteoporosis will eventually break a bone. Breaking a hip bone in your senior years may shorten your life. What to do? Exercise and diet play a significant role in keeping bones healthy so load up on your natural calcium and Vitamin D fruits and veggies. Green vegetables are a good choice as are the “superfoods” like salmon, berries, nuts, whole grains, and yogurt.
Whaaaa? This is a fancy word for nerve pain. Shapewear is a $680 million dollar industry and continuing to grow. Compression wear like Spanx can cause nerve pain in the thighs and groin as well as exacerbate reflux disease. A better option, although is not instantaneous, is a nutritional diet and exercise.
So, let’s recap on the basics:
- Strengthen your muscles; yoga and swimming are great choices
- Maintain an optimum weight
- Practice good posture
- Empty out your purse
- Wear smart shoes with support
- Lift properly
- Use a cross body purse instead of a shoulder bag
- See your physician if discomfort persists
You are in control! One small change can make a huge difference. Be well and live a long healthy life!
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