Available evidence strongly supports the involvement of estrogen deficiency in disc degeneration, as well as the benefits of hormone therapy (HT) on the total lumbar disc height in postmenopausal women. Multiple studies have previously investigated the association between menopause and lumbar disc degeneration; however, the study detailed in the article "Association between menopause and lumbar disc degeneration: an MRI study of 1,566 women and 1,382 men" is the first known to include a portion of age-matched men as a comparison group.
Study results document how men and women fare with regard to disc degeneration, as measured by magnetic resonance imaging, as they age. Whereas young, age-matched men were more susceptible to disc degeneration than premenopausal women were, postmenopausal women had a significant tendency to develop more severe disc degeneration than age-matched men compared with premenopausal and perimenopausal women. The most dramatic difference was seen in the first 15 years after menopause onset, although the authors note that further studies are needed to determine whether age or menopause plays a more important role in the progression of disc degeneration in the lumbar spine.
"This study shows that menopause is associated with more severe disc degeneration," says Dr. JoAnn Pinkerton, executive director of NAMS. "Prevention of disc degeneration of the lumbar spine may be another potential benefit for symptomatic menopausal women who may be candidates for hormone therapy."