Hormone Imbalances and Pain - Inflammation and Chronic Pain
Nearly 100 million Americans suffer from chronic pain, with more than 26 million between the ages of 20 and 64 reporting frequent low back pain (the most common location). There can be many causes of pain including injury, infection, arthritis, nerve damage etc. However, for many people there is an underlying inflammatory component with any condition that not only adds to ongoing pain and suffering, but prevents healing and tissue repair. Inflammation can be thought of as the body saying, “Something’s not right here, let’s focus our efforts to fix it.” Many people think about testing their hormones for ongoing symptoms such as low libido, hot flashes, or even fatigue, but chronic pain and inflammation can also be signs of imbalances in hormones including estrogen, progesterone, testosterone and cortisol. Let’s break down the roles that hormones may play as they relate to pain, especially if those hormones are allowed to remain unbalanced.
Estrogen deficiency, or having lower than “optimal” estrogen levels, has been repeatedly linked to osteoarthritis (or OA, which occurs when the cartilage between joints weakens and wears down) as estrogens influence the way joint tissues help with bone production and re-building, promoting muscle growth as well as decreasing muscle breakdown. Estradiol has been shown to protect joints from weakening, protect against osteoarthritis, and reduce the likelihood of joint replacement.
Progesterone is widely publicized as being anti-inflammatory. This may be partly due to the fact that your body converts progesterone into cortisol, which is thought of as the "stress hormone," but actually is one of the most powerful anti-inflammatory workhorses in your body. More specifically, progesterone has been shown to reduce neuropathic pain, which is a complex, chronic pain involving nerve damage.
Testosterone is an anabolic hormone, meaning that it contributes to the buildup and strengthening of tissues. Testosterone has also been shown to reduce inflammatory markers. In general, lower inflammation levels lead to less pain and pain-related symptoms.
One of the primary roles of cortisol in the body is to reduce inflammation and control your body’s immune response. The release of cortisol from your adrenal glands is intended to be short-term, to handle a serious, unexpected situation (for example, to react quickly to a car swerving towards you on the highway) and then return to normal levels. However chronic, or ongoing stress and stimulation of your adrenal glands can lead to a depletion of cortisol, allowing inflammatory processes within your body to “run wild” and lead to swelling, pain and the tissue damage.
An easy at-home Metabolic Research Center Hormone Detection Kit will allow you to obtain a snapshot of your hormone levels, including the hormones listed above. Use your results to formulate a sensible and straight forward plan with your MRC consultant and get back to a happier, healthier you. Click here to find a location near you.
National Centers for Health Statistics, Chartbook on Trends in the Health of Americans 2006, Special Feature: Pain. http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/hus/hus06.pdf.
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