I have previously written about the problems women have with injury to the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), a crucial part of the knee. Unfortunately, due to fluctuating hormones, women are actually prone to injury in all soft tissues (muscles, tendons and ligaments). Andrew L. Rubman, ND, explains that depending on what life stage a woman is in, she either lacks enough hormones to protect soft tissue... or has too many hormones, making her vulnerable to injury.
MENOPAUSAL AND POST MENOPAUSAL
Specifically, irregular and often insufficient progesterone levels make menopausal and postmenopausal women more likely to bruise. The reason: Cortisone, which is necessary to control inflammation, including bruising, is partially produced from progesterone. Too little progesterone equals less bruise protection. A second hormonal complication takes place when estrogen levels drop at menopause or in response to stress or other factors. The drop in estrogen can make it more difficult for injured capillaries to stop bleeding. Why? Because clotting requires calcium and calcium needs estrogen to facilitate its entry into soft tissue and the capillaries. Too little estrogen equals too little calcium, which equals problems with clotting and bleeding. To address both of these hormonal drops, Dr. Rubman recommends that women talk to their doctors about getting a prescription for bioidentical trivalent estrogen cream that contains three active forms of estrogen -- estriol, estradiol and estrone.
YOUNGER WOMEN AND OVULATION
Younger women aren't off the hook, either. For the most part, their higher levels of female hormones offer protection, but these women are vulnerable to soft-tissue injury in the three days of the month surrounding ovulation. During that time, the body releases a hormone called relaxin that softens the capsule of the ovaries to allow the release of the egg. However, relaxin "relaxes" other connective tissues as well, making them more vulnerable to injury during this period. A sure sign of ovulation is that the texture of vaginal discharge changes, taking on a "spindling" effect. Dr. Rubman advises women who are physically active to slow down if possible during those three days each month, or at the least, be particularly careful.
TREATING THE INJURY
If you do get a soft tissue injury -- a sprain of the ligament (the connective bands holding bones together), or a strain of the tendons (the ends of muscles that connect them to bones) or muscles -- Dr. Rubman suggests the following for optimum healing...
Sprained ligaments: In the acute phase -- when even light pressure elicits discomfort -- of a sprained ligament, ice the injury. Best: Five or so minutes on, five or so minutes off -- as often as possible. When it no longer hurts to apply gentle pressure to the injury, switch to contrasting heat and ice. (Heat increases the rate of nutrients going in and waste coming out of the ligaments.) Place the injured area in an Epsom salts bath at 100° F to 104° F (check with a thermometer) for five minutes... follow by icing for two minutes and then nothing for three minutes. Repeat this 10-minute cycle three or four times in a row and perform two or three times a day until you can move normally. Pain should decrease and perhaps be gone. Note: Individuals with medical conditions that may alter the perception of or response to heat should seek professional oversight for treatment.
Tendon injuries: Tendons often require treatment by a physician. However, Dr. Rubman says you also can aid healing with icing and heat therapy (outlined above) and with aloe vera -- but from the inside out. Mix one-quarter cup each of aloe juice concentrate and water, and drink it. Stop when stools are soft. Aloe vera helps heal soft tissue injuries by converting uric acid -- a waste product of the injury -- to urea, a metabolic waste product converted by the body from ammonia, which the body can more easily rid.
Muscle bruises: For bruised muscles, make a comfrey root powder pack. Boil dried comfrey root powder with water until you have what Dr. Rubman describes as a "thick goop." Put this into a compress and place directly on the bruise. Keep it on all day, even throughout the night, he says, and watch the bruise disappear.