April 3, 2013
Estrogen Effective in Relieving Postmenopausal Joint Pain

Los Angeles—Estrogen-only therapy could provide long-term relief for joint pain in postmenopausal women, according to a new study based on the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI).

In the study published online recently by the journal Menopause, researchers analyzed results from the WHI’s Estrogen-Alone program, in which women who had undergone a hysterectomy received either estrogen or a placebo.

Previous studies of estrogen’s influence on joint symptoms had not been conclusive, according to background in the study.

“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, MD, PhD, corresponding author of the study and a Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute lead researcher. “Three to five percent more of the women receiving estrogen reported less joint pain than the women receiving a placebo.”

The Estrogen-Alone program included 10,739 postmenopausal women, with 77% reporting joint pain and 40% saying they had swelling of their joints. Joint pain frequency declined after 1 year of treatment, according to the study, with 76.3% of women receiving estrogen-only medication complaining of joint pain compared to 79.2% of a placebo group.

The positive effect continued even after 3 years of treatment in a subset of the women in the study. Seventy-four percent of participants who received estrogen said they had joint pain, which was significantly less than the 79.8% in the placebo group.

“These findings suggest estrogen may provide modest but sustained relief for post-menopausal women who suffer from joint pain,” according to Chlebowski.
Study authors emphasized that all of the risks and benefits of menopausal hormone therapy should be taken into consideration when recommending estrogen for joint pain and that the lowest dose for the shortest amount of time needed should be used to achieve the therapeutic goal.

Differences in reported joint pain were seen only in the estrogen-alone portion of the WHI trial and not where the trial compared results in women who took an estrogen-progestogen combination with those who took a placebo, according to the report.

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