Estrogen may ease joint pain suffered by many post-menopausal women, new research shows.
The findings, published online in the journal Menopause, are based on the experiences of nearly 11,000 women participating in the long-running study known as the Women's Health Initiative.
Researchers found 77 percent of the women had joint pain and 40 percent experienced swelling of their joints. But after one year of estrogen-only treatment, women reported less joint pain than those not taking any medication.
Pain relief continued for at least three years after treatment began, the results showed.
"We found that post-menopausal women who received estrogen-only medication reported significantly lower frequency of joint pain than women who received a placebo," said Rowan T. Chlebowski, M.D., a Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute scientist who led the study. "Three to five percent more of the women receiving estrogen reported less joint pain than the women receiving a placebo."
Dr. Chlebowski noted past studies of estrogen's influence on joint symptoms have produced mixed results, but the new research should encourage women with joint pain to ask their doctors about the potential benefits of taking the hormone.
"Women should consult their physicians and balance the potential therapeutic value of estrogen against the available information on risks and benefits of menopausal hormone therapy, including the admonition to use the lowest dose for the shortest duration,” he said. “Recent follow-up studies from the WHI found the benefits of taking estrogen-only medication could outweigh the risks for about five years."
The study was funded, in part, by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, National Institutes of Health, and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
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