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Oh the joys of being a woman get even better having an auto-immune disease like RA. 

Researchers are investigating reasons other than genetic factors that may play a role in why more women develop rheumatoid arthritis (since nearly 70 percent of people diagnosed with RA are women). According to the Arthritis Foundation, the suspects include female hormone levels and imbalances, as well as the body’s response to stressful events such as physical or emotional trauma. Further research shows that women are more frequently and often more severely affected by overall pain than men. As I mention above, women are nearly three times more apt than men to have conditions that cause joint pain (such as arthritis and fibromyalgia), experience hormone fluctuations that affect their vulnerability to pain, and just may not be physiologically equipped to deal with pain. This is not to say, however, that women don not deal with pain exceptionally better than men [who can definitely be babies sometimes].

Many women with auto-immune conditions such as RA, lupus, and fibromyalgia report a noticeable increase in joint pain just before or during their periods. This is likely because estrogen levels plummet right before menstruation and rise again after a woman’s period is over. And now with many women taking birth control to regulate these hormone levels monthly, it is common that the week without hormones (period week) can be the most painful, especially when living with an auto-immune condition. Basically, estrogen is a natural pain killer, which is why a woman’s body increases estrogen levels naturally during pregnancy and child birth. So the natural fluctuations of these hormone levels can affect the levels of pain and inflammation, causing flare-ups during these times.

Well now that we understand that the RA pain is going to increase with the fluctuation of hormones in women, there has to be some additional treatment options for these flare-ups. Finally realizing this pattern, I now keep Aleve on-hand for the couple days before my cycle. Acupuncture has also helped me in relieving the pain and balancing my hormones. For me, it is all about understanding my body’s fluctuations and reasons for the flare-ups so that I can manage the pain.