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Physical Therapies May Ease Postmenopausal Pain Better Than Drugs

Compared with younger women, postmenopausal women reported greater improvement in pain following treatments such as physiotherapy, despite being prescribed fewer drugs.

This is according to a new study that Tian Yu, MD presented this December at the 22nd Annual Pain Medicine Meeting of the American Society of Regional Anaesthesia and Pain Medicine. Chronic pain complaints, including joint pain complaints, increase after menopause. Researchers have hypothesized that changes such as increasing BMI and decreasing bone mass, secondary to hormonal changes, may contribute to the experience of pain among postmenopausal women. 2

One could further hypothesize that, compared to younger patients, exercise therapy may be less effective in the face of these additional challenges. Researchers at Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center (Chicago, USA) set out to measure the situation. They compared the records of 1,215 women who were treated for different pain conditions for three months or longer. They categorized 967 of the women as postmenopausal and 248 of the women as premenopausal. At initial assessments, postmenopausal women tended to report higher pain scores compared to younger women (8.037 vs 7.613). On the other hand, postmenopausal women averaged greater improvement following treatment (63% vs 59%).

Compared to younger women, postmenopausal women proved more responsive to both medical and physiological interventions. Additionally, postmenopausal women scored better pain improvement despite receiving fewer drug prescriptions than the younger group. Dr. Yu commented that postmenopausal women seemed to benefit more from the physical interventions than from the pharmacological prescriptions.

He additionally commented that these results encouraged them to turn to physiotherapy as first-line pain treatment among postmenopausal women to a greater extent. Yu and colleagues pointed out the limitations of their retrospective, observational study. There could be multiple causes for the associations observed, some more sociological than physiological. For instance, perhaps the postmenopausal women demonstrated greater adherence to both medical and physical treatment plans. The hope is that this study will inspire other studies that can further enhance pain management practices specific to postmenopausal women. 

References 1. Procedures May Ease Postmenopausal Pain Better Than Drugs - Medscape - Dec 01, 2023. Last accessed 2023 Dec 15. Available at www.

2. Huang C, Ross PD, Lydick E, Wasnich RD. Factors associated with joint pain among postmenopausal women. International Journal of Obesity. 1997 May;21(5):349-54. 

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