Estrogen: a therapeutic option for low back pain and osteoarthritis pain?

19 October 2023

It is well known that estrogen is a sex hormone – but can it also help to relieve low back pain and osteoarthritis pain?

AIBN PhD scholar Huiwen Pang, along with Dr Felicity Han and her collaborator Dr Sidong Yang from the Department of Spine Surgery, Hebei Medical University Third Hospital, suggest that estrogen-based therapeutics could be increasingly crucial to managing common, debilitating causes of musculoskeletal pain.

Dr Felicity Han and PhD scholar Huiwen Pang are exploring how estrogen could be vital in new therapeutics for lower back pain and osteoartritis. 

In the Nature publication Bone Research, the researchers highlight the disproportionate rate at which women experience lower back pain and osteoarthritis, and why estrogen deficiencies are likely a key contributor.

“Women are far more likely than men to experience lower back pain and osteoarthritis,” Felicity says.

“It is even more pronounced during menopause when estrogen production has dropped”  

“Here, we’ve collected some of the growing evidence that links estrogen to healthy intervertebral discs, joints, and various tissues implicated in lower back pain and osteoarthritis, and opened the door to how estrogen might be used as a therapeutic option in the future.”

While work in this field is encouraging, Felicity and Sidong warn that more attention is needed to understand the pathways and mechanisms by which estrogen alleviates pain, and what the potential side-effects of estrogen therapy may be. 

Osteoarthritis is one of the leading causes of lower back pain. 

“We certainly need to close these knowledge gaps, with a focus on exploring which estrogen treatments and at what doses are most effective and safe for different pain conditions at different stages,” Sidong says.

“But the links between estrogen and musculoskeletal pain definitely contribute to the growing argument that estrogen is much more than just a sex hormone.”

You can read thr full-text paper here in Nature Publisher– Bone Research.

Other authors of the paper include Dr David Klyne from UQ’s School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, as well as associate professor David Harrich from QIMR Berghofer, and Dr Wenyuan Ding from the Department of Spine Surgery, Hebei Medical University Third Hospital.