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Hormone therapy may protect against curvature of the spine

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Menopausal hormone therapy (HT) may help reduce the risk of developing hyperkyphosis, an exaggerated curvature of the spine that creates a forward stooped posture.

A study published online in Menopause, the journal of the North American Menopause Society (NAMS), found that women’s risk of developing age-related kyphosis declines with hormone therapy.

HT has previously been shown to reverse bone loss and help prevent vertebral fractures. Bone density increases steadily during the first three years of HT use and is then maintained during continued use.

Because hyperkyphosis is associated with bone loss and vertebral fractures, the authors of the study hypothesized that HT may also be effective in helping to prevent exaggerated spine curvature, sometimes called dowager’s hump.

According to NAMS, the research was based on more than 9,700 women aged 65 years and older who were evaluated over a 15-year period.

Women who reported continuous or remote past HT use had less pronounced kyphosis by the time they were in their mid-eighties than those who had never used HT.

This suggests that HT could be used as an early post-menopause treatment for women concerned about their posture and fracture risk.

Beyond its adverse aesthetic effects, hyperkyphosis is associated with poor physical function, an increased risk of falls and fractures, and earlier mortality.

“Women who reported early use of HT were less likely to develop age-related kyphosis, and the protective benefits continued even after stopping HT,” said Dr JoAnn Pinkerton, NAMS executive director. “This supports a benefit of prescribing HT close to menopause.”