Women are more likely to injure themselves at specific times during their menstrual cycle, according to new research released today.
The study, conducted by Stephen Sandler, osteopath at the Portland Hospital, surveyed 1,000 osteopaths and studied 17 women with regular monthly menstrual cycles and found that at certain points in their cycle women were more prone to injury.
Stephen Sandler, who carried out the research as part of his PhD thesis, explained: "There was a clear link between hormone levels and laxity of joints, making women more vulnerable to injury. As they progress through the cycle their joints become increasingly loose. This is due to the changing levels of the hormones oestrogen and relaxin. Midway through the cycle, the level of oestrogen, which gives strength to muscles and ligaments, drops dramatically resulting in a sudden weakness. At the end of the cycle relaxin is present which softens the ligaments. At both these stages women are more susceptible to strains and damage. This early study may now warrant more comprehensive research into this area."
Stephen Sandler compared hormone levels in the blood with the laxity of the forefinger joint and found that joint laxity increased throughout the hormone cycle, then reverted back to normal once the period began. His results also mean that women on the combined pill, who do not experience sudden drops in their oestrogen levels, are less likely to experience injury as the result of loosened joints.
Stephen Sandler added: "I have been practicing as an osteopath for more than 25 years and had noted that, whereas men often came to me with injuries due to sport or overexertion, women often couldn't explain why simple acts like reaching down to pick something up had caused injury and pain. Surveying 1,000 other osteopaths I found this experience repeated and that these women were hurting themselves at certain points in their cycle."
The survey found that 21% of women reported the incidence of pain at days 12–14 of their cycle and 17% at days 24–26. The majority of pain reported in the midcycle was lumbar or pelvic pain compared to lumbar or neck pain at the end of the cycle.
Rebecca Morrison from the British School of Osteopathy commented: "These results will be valuable to both women and health professionals. Studies have shown before that female athletes and those engaged in recreational sport were more prone to injury at certain times in their cycle and now we understand why. This is significant for women everywhere who can plan their schedules around their cycles and avoid potentially painful injuries. It will also aid therapists in the rehabilitation of their patients."
Rona Call, 35, is a patient of Dr Sandler's at the Portland Hospital: "I was always putting my back out and began to notice that this happened at the same time every month. I take good care of my back and regularly go to yoga and pilates, but would hurt my back just by bending down to tie my shoelaces up. This research will empower women to help protect themselves and prevent injury. I try my best these days to avoid over doing it at certain times of the month but often life takes over and a trip to the osteopath is necessary just to give me pain relief and get me going again."
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