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File image: A doctor points to a x-ray of a woman's hand broken small metacarpal bone Image Credit: AFP

New Delhi: Hormonal changes, especially those during and after pregnancy, obesity, and unhealthy lifestyle are major drivers for increasing instances of degenerative bone diseases in young women, said doctors here on National Bone and Joint Day on Friday.

Every year, the National Bone and Joint Day is observed on August 4 in India to raise awareness about bone and joint health among the population and prevent various musculoskeletal disorders and conditions.

Degenerative joint and bone disease is another name for osteoarthritis. It's a chronic process of wear and tear on the joint that progresses with time.

A hormonal link

"Women are more prone to the condition because they have a hormone, elastane, which leads to more elasticity in their tendons and ligaments, making them more prone to injuries," Dr. Amit Kale, Professor and Head of Unit, Orthopaedic and Joint Replacement, D.Y. Patil Hospital in Pune, told IANS.

"While degenerative diseases are more common in the older population, many times even the young females can suffer from knee pains," added Dr Vaibhav Bagaria, Director, Department of Orthopaedics, Sir HN Reliance Foundation Hospital.

"The inner muscles try to pull the kneecap inside whereas the outer muscle tries to pull it outside and when there is a disbalance, the knee cap tends to rub against the bone below causing pain and some amount of degeneration," Dr Bagaria told.


Increasing obesity is another reason for osteoarthritis in women.

"Obesity is more common in women than men and this excessive weight puts more pressure on the joints and that is why they experience more joint damage, wear and tear," Dr. Kale said.

Pregnancy and child birth

Osteoporosis or osteopenia is common in postpartum women, primarily due to a combination of hormonal changes, nutritional factors and lifestyle changes during and after pregnancy.

"Often, the people who are in the postpartum period, meaning after the pregnancy, tend to develop certain bone and joint disorders, and one of the primary reasons that this happens is because of the alteration of the bone density," Dr Bagaria said.

In pregnancy, certain hormones like oestrogen and progesterone, which help support the growth and development of the foetus are altered and these typically tend to suppress the bone resorption but because of the alteration, this may not happen.

After childbirth, there is a sudden drop in these hormones resulting in increased bone resorption and a temporary decrease in bone density, the doctor said.

Breastfeeding also is an important factor. While breastfeeding offers numerous health benefits for both mother and baby, it can also be a contributory factor for decreased bone density, Dr Bagaria said, suggesting such women to boost their diet with essential nutrients, like calcium, and vitamin D.

Sleep deprivation can also increase stress levels which are common during the postpartum period, and can negatively impact bone health. It is important to take enough rest, manage their stress, and if there is any prolonged orthopaedic condition or orthopaedic symptom, they should consult an orthopaedic specialist.

How to reduce the risk

The doctors also suggested increasing daily dietary calcium intake with foods such as tofu, almonds, Brazil nuts, salmon, and dark-green leafy vegetables as a source of calcium.

And indulging in physical activities like brisk walking, tai chi, dancing or weight training, aerobic activities (2-3 times a week), resistance exercises/strength-building exercises (1-2 times a week) and also include stretchable and flexibility exercises in the routine.

Avoid smoking and excessive caffeine intake as it is also associated with osteoporosis, they said.