While the normal separating factor between two people’s risk has much more to do with the activities they partake in, gender certainly plays a factor. Both females and males are susceptible to problems with their muscles, bones, and joints, but there are certain injuries and conditions that tend to affect women more often than men. Due to differences in muscle mass and bone density, injuries and other orthopedic conditions often present differently in women than they do in men. Add to this how common it is for women to wear ill-fitting and high-heeled shoes, and they do indeed seem primed to suffer orthopedic injuries that affect the foot and ankle.
When it comes to orthopedic problems, women need to be more wary of their bones, and the strength of them. Knowing what you are at risk for can have great benefits for your health. Being educated about your health can sometimes spare you costly medical bills and painful procedures.
Osteoporosis is a progressive disease associated with bone density loss and an increased risk of fractures. As women begin to age, their estrogen levels begin to decrease. This drop off is significant, especially around menopause. When this happens, it can have some unfortunate side effects. One of these side effects is a decrease in bone density.
Estrogen helps to protect your bones. Like calcium, it keeps them strong. As estrogen levels begin to decrease, bones begin to weaken and grow brittle, causing them to become more susceptible to breaking or fracturing. Osteoporosis occurs four times more frequently in women than in men – approximately 30% of women in the United States have osteoporosis. In men and women, osteoporosis contributes to an estimated two million bone fractures each year. Many women with osteoporosis experience fractures of the hip, spine, arm, or leg, and often occur as the result of a fall.
If you are worried about osteoporosis, there are actually steps you can take to lower your risk and lessen the impact. Exercise and a well-balanced diet, especially during your teenage and young adult years, can help to keep your bones strong as you grow older.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) is the name for a group of problems that includes swelling, pain, tingling, and loss of strength in your wrist and hand. Women are three times more likely to have carpal tunnel syndrome than men. Carpal tunnel syndrome is most frequently diagnosed between the ages of 30 and 60. Certain conditions increase your risk for developing it, including diabetes, high blood pressure, and arthritis.
Plantar fasciitis is one of the most common causes of heel pain. It involves inflammation of a thick band of tissue that runs across the bottom of your foot and connects your heel bone to your toes (plantar fascia).
Plantar fasciitis commonly causes stabbing pain that usually occurs with your first steps in the morning. As you get up and move, the pain normally decreases, but it might return after long periods of standing or when you stand up after sitting.
Plantar fasciitis is often associated with rapid weight gain. During the later stages of pregnancy when women gain more weight, symptoms of plantar fasciitis may become bothersome.
Morton’s neuroma is a painful condition that affects the ball of your foot, most commonly the area between your third and fourth toes. Morton’s neuroma may feel as if you are standing on a pebble in your shoe or on a fold in your sock.
Morton’s neuroma involves a thickening of the tissue around one of the nerves leading to your toes. This can cause a sharp, burning pain in the ball of your foot. Your toes also may sting, burn or feel numb.
The combination of narrow feet and a tendency to wear even narrower shoes, especially those with high heels, can lead to women developing Morton’s neuromas much more often than men.
Sprained ankles are almost twice as common in women as they are in men. Potentially due to a difference in stabilizing strategies in men and women, women tend to be more susceptible to ankle injuries than men. Injuries such as ankle sprains, anterior tibialis tendonitis, and posterior tibialis tendonitis are commonly seen in women. Ankle injuries seen from women wearing high-heeled shoes have also been increasing over time.
It is also a fact that women have a weaker bone structure than men, possibly as a result of their higher estrogen levels. This would seemingly contradict what we know about osteoporosis, though. Women tend to be leaner in build than men with a lower muscle mass, possibly leaving them more susceptible to injury.
The Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) is located in the knee and connects the top of the lower leg bone (tibia) to the bottom of the thighbone (femur). ACL tears are commonly seen in sports involving pivoting or cutting, such as football, soccer, or basketball. Studies have shown that female athletes have a higher incidence of ACL injuries than male athletes do, though the reason is not entirely known. Proposed theories include differences in bone anatomy, muscle strength, and neuromuscular control, leading to a difference in pelvic and lower leg alignment.
Some suggest that because women tend to have wider hips, which naturally changes the alignment of the knees and ankles. Women also have a narrower space in the knee for the ACL to move, possibly leaving it at a higher risk for tears.
Sensible Shoes Make Sense
Even simple sprains affect the genders differently, with women more likely to sprain their ankles. High heel injuries are on the rise. Compared to a decade ago, women wearing high heels, especially young women in their 20s, are nearly twice as likely to visit the emergency room for strains and sprains of their feet and ankles. While you cannot control anatomy, you should avoid flip-flops and non-supportive shoes, especially when walking on uneven surfaces.
Bone Health in Older Women
As women reach menopause, they are at higher risk for hip fractures from osteoporosis. In men, osteoporosis is only one of several possible causes. Rheumatoid arthritis, low levels of physical activity, thyroid and other conditions can all be factors for men. With men, there is a danger that osteoporosis can be missed, until later stages when more bone has been lost.
Osteoporosis causes a risk of hip fractures and wrist fractures, vertebral spine fractures – and being aware of that risk, whether you’re male or you’re female, is extremely important. Preventive measures include vitamin D and calcium supplementation and regular weight-bearing exercise.
During youth, our bodies are producing bones faster than they are being broken down. After the ripe old age of 30, however, this production balance tips. Our net production of bone begins to drop. For some women, that translates to a loss of bone density that worsens every year.
But there are several steps you can take to slow down that process:
Weight-Bearing Exercise is Key
Weight bearing exercise is important for preventing and combatting a number of health issues. One health concern among older women is osteoporosis. Don’t let the name fool you — these types of workouts are not about pumping iron. They are exercises you do on your feet so that your bones and muscles have to work against gravity to keep you upright. Your bones react to the weight on them by building themselves up and getting stronger.
Diet Also Matters
We all know the importance of calcium for bone health. Caffeine is said to be good for brain health, but too much can weaken your body’s ability to absorb calcium. This does not mean that you cannot have caffeine drinks, just do not overdo it.
Heavy alcohol consumption also may have a negative effect on bone health. Like drinking too much coffee, heavy alcohol consumption can interfere with vitamin D levels in your body. Vitamin D is essential for a healthy skeleton.
Surprisingly, potassium also may play an important role in bone health. One reason bones weaken is that certain acids in your body work to remove calcium. Potassium may work to neutralize those acids, so try to incorporate bananas, sweet potatoes, and yogurt into your diet.
Other nutrients to take in for bone health include vitamin D, vitamin K, and of course, calcium.
Smoking is Bad for the Bones
Many of the health problems caused by tobacco use are well known. Cigarette smoking causes heart disease, lung and esophageal cancer, and chronic lung disease. Additionally, several research studies have identified smoking as a risk factor for osteoporosis and bone fracture.
Studies have shown a direct relationship between tobacco use and decreased bone density. It is hard to determine whether a decrease in bone density is due to smoking itself or to other risk factors common among people who smoke. In many cases, people who smoke are thinner than nonsmokers, tend to drink more alcohol, may be less physically active and have poor diets. Women who smoke also tend to have an earlier menopause than nonsmokers. These factors place many people who smoke at an increased risk for osteoporosis apart from their tobacco use.
How Can I Get Started?
Orthopedic injuries are some of the more difficult and painful injuries you can sustain and they almost always require one to get proper medical treatment. If you have suffered from a break or fracture, dislocation, knee or rotator cuff injury, seek medical treatment right away.
You will likely be in a lot of pain depending on the complexity of your injury, but even if your pain is moderate, only a proper diagnosis by a professional will be able to determine what exactly has occurred and what needs to be done to remedy things.
The experienced and dedicated orthopedic surgeons at Ventura Orthopedics are here for you. If you need spinal or back surgery, it may be time to consult a medical professional. The experienced and dedicated orthopedic surgeons at Ventura Orthopedics are here for you. We are committed to helping you through any procedure until optimum health, strength and mobility are restored.
Call us today at 800-698-1280 to schedule an appointment.