We tend to chalk up aches and pains as an inevitable part of growing older. But new research shows that women who develop lower back pain in middle age can actually lay the blame on something other than age.
The surprising culprit? Menopause.
Well, in Dr. Fred Pescatore’s Pain-Free Life Protocol he says, “Plummeting estrogen levels lead to all the common symptoms we think of when we think ‘menopause’—and symptoms we don’t usually think of, like disc degeneration.”
And he believes one of the best ways to relieve back pain caused by disc degeneration is to replenish the decreasing hormone levels that occur during menopause. This is why many doctors prescribe hormone replacement therapy (HRT) to postmenopausal women.
Dr. Pescatore continues on to say, “It would make sense that HRT could delay or prevent the degeneration of the discs that lead to back pain. If estrogen drops cause the pain, replenishing the hormone seems like a sensible next step.”
But Dr. Pescatore points out, “With anything health-related, it’s not quite as simple as taking a ‘magic pill.’ There’s a flip-side to HRT.”
Seeking the ideal hormone balance that’s right for you
Women who are just now beginning menopause may not have heard of the huge controversy that erupted over HRT nearly 20 years ago.
In the early 2000s, the National Institutes of Health determined that one type of hormone replacement therapy—Prempro—caused breast cancer in otherwise healthy women.
“The effect” Dr. Pescatore says, “was so clearly devastating that the study investigating the connection was halted early to avoid putting more women at risk. Understandably, that turned a lot of people off hormone replacement.”
Fortunately, he adds, there’s a safer way to replace hormones lost during menopause—a “more tailored approach” called bioidentical hormone replacement therapy (BHRT), which offers women a safer way to regain their hormonal balance.
Dr. Pescatore explains that while HRT simply gives hormones a boost, BHRT aims to bring hormones to a healthy ratio.
He says, “Ideally, estradiol and estrone should be in a one-to-one ratio. Higher amounts of estradiol can also be healthy. But you never want estrone to be the dominant estrogen. Which is something that often occurs in women on conventional HRT.”
After hormone levels are carefully analyzed, doctors can use a compounding pharmacy to prescribe a customized cream that’s specifically formulated for each individual patient. Then, throughout treatment, follow-up blood tests are needed to ensure hormones are reaching and maintaining their balance.
“If anything is off,” he says, “you can quickly address it and make the changes your body needs.”
A word of caution: Don’t add fuel to the fire
Dr. Pescatore also recommends another approach that uses a hormone supplement called dehydroepiandrosterone, or DHEA. By taking DHEA you can spur your body to make its own reproductive hormones.
And Dr. Pescatore points out two more reasons to supplement with this key hormone: “DHEA is also a natural anti-inflammatory, which can help with the menopausal back pain I told you about earlier. Plus, as a side benefit, DHEA boosts libido.
“I usually recommend 5 to 25 mg of this hormone per day.”
One word of caution though: Dr. Pescatore notes that anyone who has had an estrogen-related cancer should not use any type of hormone replacement. This is also sound advice for women with genetic markers for estrogen-related cancer—for instance, BRCA, the so-called “breast cancer gene.”
For these women, he says, “Adding more estrogen to the mix can be like throwing fuel on a fire.”
But not to worry—Dr. Pescatore stresses that you still have plenty of drug-free options for combatting menopausal back pain which he outlines in his Pain-Free Life Protocol. Click here to learn more or to enroll today.
“Association between menopause and lumbar disc degeneration: an MRI study of 1,566 women and 1,382 men” Menopause 2017; 24(10): 1136-1144. DOI: 10.1097/GME.0000000000000902