Post Hysterectomy Skeletal and Anatomical Changes

Tuesday, April 23rd, 2013 / hysterectomy

I wonder if so many women would “choose” hysterectomy if they knew how it would affect their figure and internal anatomy. I know I would have told my once respected gynecologist “no way” and left never to return if I’d known just a smidgen of what I now know. Here are some of the anatomical and skeletal changes that occur post hysterectomy.

Ligament and Skeletal Changes Post Hysterectomy

An intact woman’s figure has space between the rib cage and the hip bones commonly known as the waist. The waist gives her the curve in her lower back, the natural sway in her hips, her “elongated” torso that’s proportionate to her extremities. This all changes after hysterectomy.

Four sets of ligaments hold the uterus in place. These ligaments are the “scaffolding” or support structures for the core (midsection). When the ligaments are severed to remove the uterus, the spine compresses causing the rib cage to gradually fall toward the hip bones and the hip bones to widen. This causes a shortened, thickened midsection, protruding belly, and loss of the curve in the lower back, giving the appearance of a flat derriere. In some women, these changes cause those hated rolls of fat (weight gain or not). In others, it looks more like a pregnant belly. This can be particularly distressing for women whose hysterectomies denied them the chance to have (more) children.

As if an unattractive figure isn’t devastating enough, these skeletal changes lead to chronic back, hip, and rib cage pain as well as tingling and loss of sensation in legs and feet. It also explains why, even absent osteoporosis, hysterectomized women lose height. With all these changes to the skeletal structure, I wonder if hysterectomy can also cause spinal stenosis. It would certainly seem plausible.

Evidence of my spine compressing started 12 to 18 months post-op. A crease started forming about two inches above my navel. It gradually lengthened over the next 6 months to a year until it became visible all across my midsection. I’ve always been thin (underweight) with flat, toned abs and prominent hip bones. And contrary to what most women experience after hysterectomy, I lost weight. As my spine compressed, my flat abs became “fat” and flabby. My hip bones became less prominent in the front (as my belly pooched out) and more prominent in the back since my rib cage had fallen onto my hip bones. And I now have intermittent back, hip, and rib cage pain as well as tingling in feet. My sacrum / tailbone has also looked bruised since not long after my hysterectomy.

Internal Organs Post Hysterectomy

And how does the body change on the inside? Well for one, it affects the bladder and bowel. The uterus separates the bladder and bowel and holds them in their rightful positions. Removal of the uterus causes these organs to fall impeding function. When the bladder or bowel is full, there can be a feeling of discomfort or even outright pain (exactly what I’m feeling at this moment – constant pain that increases by just walking). Complete emptying can be problematic as can incontinence. Bowels may alternate between constipation and diarrhea. Adhesions can further hamper bowel function even to the point of a life threatening obstruction. I’ve had serious bowel problems ever since my surgery 7 years ago. Chances of bladder, bowel, and vaginal prolapse and fistula also increase leading to more loss of quality of life and future risky surgeries. Hysterectomy has even been shown to increase risk of renal cell (kidney) cancer likely caused by damage to ureters. I have to wonder if functions of other organs may also be affected as our organs don’t work in isolation and may be further affected by the anatomical changes.

Nerves and Sex Post Hysterectomy

And what about sensation after all those nerves and blood vessels are severed? What’s it like having a shortened vagina that’s not connected to anything? Well, it’s no wonder sex isn’t the same! How can it be? And if you enjoyed uterine orgasms, those are obviously a pleasure of the past. Even nipple sensation can be lost because nerve endings are found all along the spine. The severing of nerves as well as scar tissue formation can cause a problem worse than loss of sensation – nerve entrapment which can be quite painful.

I’m not sure which is worse – the hormonal adverse effects or the anatomical and skeletal adverse effects. There’s no doubt though that my body has been drastically altered since the unwarranted removal of my vital female organs.

The adverse effects to a woman’s figure, as well as the many other adverse effects of female organ removal, are detailed in the video “Female Anatomy: the Functions of the Female Organs.” Priceless!

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Hormones Matter does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.




30 thoughts on “Post Hysterectomy Skeletal and Anatomical Changes

  1. dahlia – Thank heavens you found this site! I hope you are taking a good, absorbable form of iron with vitamin C to treat the anemia. The fibroids should shrink shortly after menopause. And if they cause debilitating problems, you could find a surgeon who does a lot of fibroid removals (myomectomy or hysteroscopic resection of fibroids) that will allow you to keep your uterus and its many LIFELONG functions.

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  2. Sherlyn – Sorry you also developed hyperthyroidism. Hysterectomy really taxes the endocrine system. I recall a woman saying that she went into a thyroid storm and almost died post-organ removal. My endocrine system went haywire too and my hair has been falling out for the entire 8 years. I am frustrated with trying various forms and doses of HRT and thyroid meds. I suspect my adrenals aren’t in the best of shape either.

    I am glad you told your rheumy doctor about this website. Unfortunately, too many doctors are not educated about the effects of hysterectomy. I think they purposely dodge that in medical school – too much money to be made doing these surgeries and making us “forever” patients.

    And as I stand and type here, I have shooting pains through my hip and tingling in my feet.

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  3. No not one Dr. Put this together. I had the hysterectomy 2/23/2010. Hyperthyroidism 7/2011. I just left my Rhemutologist office and told her about this website. She requested the link. She is going to read and research to maybe help someone else. Thanks ladies.

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  4. Sherlyn – I am sorry to hear this. I am curious if any medical practitioner has stated that your stenosis was caused or likely caused by the hysterectomy. As I stated in my article, it would certainly seem possible for this to occur but I have not seen any medical proof.

    I have back, rib cage, and hip pain that I never had before I was needlessly hysterectomized and castrated.

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  5. I am a victim of getting Spinal Stenosis 12 months post Hysterectomy. I had to leave my good job 6/2013. I cannot sit long, walk long, stand long. I cannot clean my home, handwriting changed. Heavy legs, arms. Pin all over body.

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  6. Thank God for this site
    I have severe anemia an MY Dr has said it’s due to my fibriods 2 the size of oranges and suggest hysterectomy I was considering it until I found this page. My heart goes out to all the women who did it an now have regrets but thank you for enlightening us.

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  7. Lisa – I apologize for my delayed response; I just noticed your post. I am sorry that you too were victimized by the hysterectomy industry. Although there are many of us out there, it’s a very lonely, isolated feeling. If you still aren’t getting any symptom relief from the Premarin, it may be worth trying some other form of estrogen. There are lots of options so don’t give up.

    And based on your surgical results, you may have a legal case if you wish to pursue it.

    I hope better days are ahead for you. I know how you feel.

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  8. My nightmare began 6 years ago. I Have spent that entire time trying to regulate Hypothyroidism. The minute I found the right Dr and levels normal, I started bleeding. This went on for several weeks, it was so bad, I had to have a D&C because my Uterus was the size of a football. Dr recommended Hysterctomy (keeping Ovaries) and posterier repair. I had 6 kids and after kids I had 5 years with a Mirena IUD. I had the Mirena removed for 1 year before I considered surgery. 8 months after Hysterectomy, I am miserable. My joints ache in my legs and arms. After sitting maybe an hour or less, I can barely move. When I walk any distance my lower body especially my legs feel really heavy. I’m constantly tired. I got pneumonia for the first time ever 2 months ago, and now sick again. I never used to fet sick. The Posterier repair is a nightmare. I am too small for my husband and along with the lack of sensation, its not fun at all.. Even after 6 vaginal births, I always enjoyed sex. Though it feels great to my husband, and he is sensitive about my feelings, I have now developed an anxiety about sex. Because of my physical appearance ( I worked out really hard after my kids) but between my weight and size of vagina, I avoid sex.The other issue is my extreme hot flashes. They are out of control too. I have bad mood swings. Now lets talk about my appearance, I have permanent bloating, (bigger depending on my level of activity) My hair started thinning in front and coming in grey at crown. I developed permanent dark bags under my eyes and I gained at least 20 pounds. I have a job that requires a lot of standing and I have contemplating quitting after 12 years. I am 48 years old. I’m angry at myself because I didn’t research this. I was never presented with any other options. I am depressed to think that this is my new quality of life. I feel I aged 20 years since the surgery. I switched Dr’s and was put on premarin pills and cream. Haven’t noticed a huge difference, but only been 2 weeks. . I’m really discouraged.

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  9. Hi Julie. I’m sorry to hear about your pain. How recent was your surgery? The bursitis I developed in my hip not too long after surgery went away on its own. But the back and other hip pain started a few years post-op. The pain comes and goes. It’s mild so I have not sought any treatment for it.

    Is it possible you have sciatica? I’m not sure what type of medical professional would be best to see. I know all of the ones you mentioned can be helpful for various problems. And stretching exercises can be good too (e.g. yoga).

    Hope you get some relief!

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  10. HI, I wanted to know if you still have back, hip, and leg problems? I had all those stymptoms prior to my hysterectomy and I still have them after my surgery. It’s very frustrating and I don’t know what to do, see a chiropractor, acupuncturist, or do physical therapy. Let me know, Julie

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  11. I have not been seen by a nephrologist. Do you think that there is a chance I could have our will develop kidney cancer?

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  12. Rachel – I am sorry for your awful experience! I also had nausea almost immediately post-op and it lasted quite awhile. And with it came severe diarrhea which lasted about 9 months and never totally resolved. Like you, I vascillate between loose bowels and constipation (with occasional intense pelvic pain). I seriously wonder if my gallbladder was non-functional for a period of time. And I wonder if the bowel issues contributed (along with the hormonal changes) to me losing most of my hair within 4 months of surgery.

    Did any doctor indicate to you that the gallbladder is at risk of damage when doing a hysterectomy?

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  13. I was looking up stuff and came across this page and wow… I had a total hysterectomy August 13 2007 a few weeks later I kept getting nauseous so went toDr and he did labs found nothing but sent me to another Dr and after several test it was discovered my gall bladder had shut down so Dec 13 2007 it was removed and the trouble began I since then had last ovary removed.due to fast growing cyst. Since then I suffer from IBD and I fluctuate between constipation and diarrhea. Sudden menopause has not been good to me and I hope you all find answers soon.

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  14. Nicole,
    I am sorry that you too did not get informed consent for hysterectomy and are suffering the effects of this damaging surgery. The kidney infections are concerning. A study (in PubMed) concluded that hysterectomy increases risk of kidney cancer, likely due to damage to the ureters. Have you by any chance seen a kidney specialist (nephrologist)?

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  15. Hi there. I’m a 32 year old female who had a complete hysterectomy two years ago. After battling bad endometriosis and poly cystic ovary syndrome for ten years and several surgeries to remove them both I was left with no other choice as it kept coming back worse. Since my hysterectomy I’ve had some major health issues such as heart issues, bowel issues, complicated migraines causing TIA’s (mini strokes), leg numbness and back pain. I have also had some bad kidney infections. I wish I would have known about all of this prior to the surgery so I could have passed on having a compete hysterectomy especially since I have no children. My question now is what really happens with your bladder and kidneys after having this surgery. Do I need to be concerned about serious issues? Thank you

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  16. Angie,
    I’m sorry that you too were subjected to the gross overuse and damage of hysterectomy. Feel free to contact me via email if you wish to talk. Others here may contact me also.

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  17. Hello all :)
    I came across this page and thought I would share also. Well I had my 3rd son at 18 and my 4th at 21. Had a lot of trouble after having my last son. So at 26 I had a total hysterectomy. Worst thing I could ever do!!! I have pain all the time cause nerves were left exsposed and my hips are tilting in and back pain all the time. All with other health problems I think maybe connected. But for those who are thinking of having one or thinking its great , its not!!! I would love to have the week of pain every month I was having for the rest of my life. Instead I now have some kind of pain every day and just getting worse. So really think of the rest your life don’t focus on the once a week pain.

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  18. Sue,
    I’m sorry that hysterectomy has robbed you of so much! Constipation seems to be really common. And it’s hard to know if adhesions are the culprit since they can’t typically be seen on imaging tests. Have you tried using psyllium husk such as Metamucil? Another product that is supposed to be safe to use on a regular basis is Miralax.

    I’ve also had bowel problems since my hysterectomy in 2006. It started as severe diarrhea and lasted for 9 months or so. My bowels have never returned to normal but tend to be too loose with intermittent constipation. My gastro hasn’t been much help either and when I started seeing him the first words out of his mouth were “your surgery didn’t cause this.” Well I certainly didn’t have any of these problems prior and they all started almost immediately post-op!

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  19. I’m so glad I found this site. I had a hysterectomy in 2007 and my health has slowly declined ever since to the point that the last few yrs. have been debilitating. My first sympton was constipation, then came the tiredness, headaches got worse, I’ve lost weight and muscle loss too. I can’t go to the bathroom with out some sort of laxative and now they don’t even work at times. I have on and off pain under my right rib, have been to every doctor I can think of. My health just continues to decline. I was the most active person before this surgery, now I do nothing most days. I’m very concerned about my bowel issue and the relentless fatigue. Suffering for all theses yrs. is really getting to me latley and just don’t know what to do. I know you don’t offer medical advice, but can you guide me to who I should see? My gastro and pcp’s are useless. Please…I’m desperate

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  20. AJ – I hope you can find a solution to your pelvic pain and bleeding without having to resort to hysterectomy and all its negative consequences. Have you tried some form of birth control? What about non-hormonal options to reduce bleeding and pain such as Lysteda (tranexamic acid) or Aleve or Motrin (OTC or Rx)?

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  21. I’ve had ablation .. two years ago and I’m still getting regular, painful periods. I’m scheduled for a hysterectomy next month, and I’m concerned. My doctor has told me none of the above information. I had no idea of the skeletal changes, I’m a healthy, fit 43 year old in great shape. I am a fitness model and my body is my income. I have serious concerns having read this site. What are other options? if any?

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  22. Ashley, I’m sorry to hear this. It seems odd that your gallbladder would be “acting up” this soon after surgery. What are your symptoms? And has a doctor told you he/she suspects it is your gallbladder? There does seem to be a link between gallbladder disease and estrogen but if you’re taking estrogen (and just recently started it), I can’t imagine this would have occurred this quickly.

    Be aware that gallbladder removal surgery is oftentimes done unnecessarily. Also, it can cause permanent problems. Oftentimes, more conservative treatments can fix the problem. So please do your research.

    I developed diarrhea shortly post-op and still don’t have a diagnosis. But it doesn’t appear to be my gallbladder or my pancreas which the GI doctor seemed sure of (although I never agreed with him).

    Please post back with more info.

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  23. hi i had a hystrectomy aug 30th and now my galbladders acting up have to go see a surgeon tommorow for it and i was wondering have you heard of anyone else having this problem after?

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  24. As far as ablation – The younger a woman is, the riskier it is. According to this study – http://journals.lww.com/greenjournal/Fulltext/2008/12000/Previous_Tubal_Ligation_Is_a_Risk_Factor_for.6.aspx – the risk of hysterectomy after ablation is fairly high in women who have an ablation before age 46. “Hysterectomy risk increased with each decreasing stratum of age and exceeded 40% in women aged 40 years or younger.”

    Any procedure that disrupts the normal functioning of the “reproductive” system can cause permanent problems. These include ablation, tubal ligation, hysterectomy. These problems have been coined post ablation syndrome, post tubal ligation syndrome, post hysterectomy syndrome.

    There are a number of hormonal and non-hormonal medications to treat heavy bleeding and those are supposed to be the first-line treatment. Here’s a list of those options – http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0015970/table/ch8.t1/?report=objectonly.

    Health care marketing is no different from marketing of other goods and services. We need to do our homework. Unfortunately, we can’t depend on getting all the facts from our health care providers.

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    • WS, great find on the study linking ablation to future hysterectomy. I friend and I were just talking about ablation the other day and wondering if there was any long term outcome research. Would you mind writing a quick news post on this topic. I think there is a real void in space. It is something we haven’t covered and should. If there is any more research on ablation, that would be great too.

  25. Kathryn,
    I’m so glad you declined a hysterectomy and continue to research its adverse effects. Hopefully, you’ll share your findings on your website. If it’s not against the policies of Hormonesmatter, feel free to link to my articles. We desperately need to educate other women in order to stop this gross overuse of hysterectomy (and oophorectomy – castration) and the permanent harm caused.

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  26. I’d like to add that in the book “Menopause in Modern Perspective” by Prof Wulf H Utian and published in 1974 (!!) they knew back then that leaving the ovaries in tact made little difference to the incidence of ovarian cancer (previously it was thought there could be an increase in this cancer if they were left in tact during a hyster) and should therefore be left in. This happened nearly 40 years ago.

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    • Thank you. I will add. Thanks for the reference. Speaking of historical knowledge ignored by modern medicine, Hans Selye, deemed the father of modern endocrinology b/c of his recognition of cortisol and the stress response, also wrote about the role of progesterone on multiple organ systems, esp the heart and lungs on males and females. He, unlike others that came after him, didn’t relegate progesterone just too the its reproductive role. He recognized that as one of the hormones at the top of the pathway its functions would expand well beyond the ovaries. That seems to be ignored by most and somewhere we got the mistaken nomenclature of ‘female’ and ‘male’ hormones and then the further narrowing of focus to simply their role in reproduction.

  27. You’ve answered so many questions! I was offered a hysterectomy but declined but I often spend time trying to understand what happens to the vacuum/other organs and could only come up with part of the answer. I’ve done some research to find alternatives (ablation seems to be a good option? what are your thoughts? Certainly for mennorhagia which appears to be the main reason a hyster is suggested in the first place- was for me).
    Can I use your blog on my website? Not only the one quoted above but also http://www.mentoringthroughmenopause.com. Robin Karr knows me.
    Regards
    Kathryn

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    • Kathryn,
      We’re happy to have you cross-link our posts and blogs. I would prefer you not repost entire article verbatim, however. That is detrimental to SEO for both of our sites. The search engines don’t like duplicate content. What other blogs have done instead is to write a brief introduction of the topic and then include a link back under: to read more click here. That will typically draw traffic to both sites and becomes a win/win.

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