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Why is Arthritis More Common in People Assigned Female at Birth?

Why is Arthritis More Common in People Assigned Female at Birth?

Joint pain can occur for several reasons, many of which are various types of arthritis. In fact, arthritis is a collective term that describes conditions that cause joint pain. Many arthritis types, including the most common type (osteoarthritis), progressively worsen with age. Fortunately, physical therapy and other strategies can slow the damage and even help you avoid complex joint replacement surgeries. 

People who have been assigned female at birth (AFAB) are more likely to develop arthritis than those who have been assigned male at birth (AMAB). The difference isn’t small either: For hand arthritis alone, AFAB people are about 350% more likely to get it than AMAB people in the same age group. They’re also 40% more likely to develop knee arthritis. 


Elation Physical Therapy fosters a welcoming and inclusive environment you can trust for your arthritis management needs. Located in Houston, Pearland, Cypress, and Katy, Texas, Elation Physical Therapy specializes in personalized physical therapy and other services to alleviate your joint pain and keep you moving. Our team of expert physical therapists and assistants work closely with you to manage arthritis regardless of your type. 

You might wonder more about the difference in rates of AFAB people versus AMAB people with arthritis. There are remarkable scientific reasons for this disparity, which we’ll cover in this informative article. 

The influence of hormones (and hormone replacement therapy)

One of the main factors contributing to the increased risk of arthritis in AFAB individuals is the role of specific hormones, particularly estrogen. Estrogen, a sex hormone predominantly present in AFAB people, plays a complex role in immune system regulation and inflammation. While it provides some degree of protection against arthritis during your reproductive years, it can have a more negative influence as you get older.

During menopause, your estrogen levels decline significantly. This can increase your risk of developing arthritis. Estrogen is known to have anti-inflammatory properties, and its reduction can increase inflammation throughout your body, contributing to joint damage.

Interestingly, while the reduction in estrogen levels during menopause is a risk factor for arthritis, some research suggests that hormone replacement therapy (HRT) may improve symptoms of arthritis, specifically knee osteoarthritis. HRT can help you maintain stable estrogen levels, which may reduce damaging inflammation in your joints. 

The way your body is built

Osteoarthritis develops because of the wear-and-tear on joints over time. AFAB individuals may be more prone to developing osteoarthritis due to differences in their body mechanics. For example, wider hips, a characteristic of female anatomy, can increase the stress on knee joints, potentially leading to knee osteoarthritis. These structural differences can predispose you to joint pain and stiffness.

As an AFAB person, many of your tendons and other soft tissues in and around joints are naturally more flexible than AMAB people’s tissues to accommodate pregnancy and childbirth. This increased elasticity makes them more susceptible to injuries and damage, which could lead to arthritis later in life. 

Have symptoms of arthritis?

Our team welcomes you to come in and learn more about how your body works and what you can do to mitigate your arthritis risks. As soon as you notice joint pain that doesn’t improve with gentle home care and the passage of time, you should contact our offices for a professional evaluation. To schedule a visit, call your nearest Elation Physical Therapy office or book an appointment online right away. 

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