Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Do you have back pain?

I got this piece of information through my email last night. Thought it is quite a common problem for most people. Sometimes I do experience some back pain due the sitting down for too long and incorrect way of sitting. A little adjustment would be able to help in my case for most time.

A few years back, lower back problems could have been termed rare, however today it’s become as common as the common cold. If doctors are to be believed almost 95 per cent of the population suffers from low back pain at some point in their life. Says Dr Surya Prakash, an orthopedic surgeon, “Almost 50 per cent of my outpatient turn up has this complaint. Most are in the age group of 20 to 40.” While most often people tend to neglect such pain, they are advised not to, for it could get serious, resulting in sciatica (slipped disc), spondylolysis or spondilolythesis.

That’s exactly what happened to Vinai Rajaram, a research scholar, whose work in the lab involved sitting at one place for long hours, studying samples and carrying out experiments. “Eariler I thought it was normal back pain and neglected it. I would sit at one place for 5-6 hours at a stretch. Then when I started feeling a kind of numbness in my legs, I checked with a doctor and was told that it’s just the beginning of spondilolysis. I’ve been advised to wear a lumber belt while working,” he says.

Though not peculiar to any particular profession or age group, doctors owe lower back pain to jobs that involve sitting at one place for long hours. “Sitting down puts more pressure on the back than standing upright. When you sit, you are straining your vertebrae and the spinal chord. Sometimes, owing to the mismatched heights and sizes of the table and the chair, people tend to raise themselves with the support of their butt to read what’s written on the computer. This again puts a lot of pressure on the back and also the shoulders.

The pain then starts radiating either from the back to the shoulders or to the legs,” informs Dr Narendra Nath, an orthopedic surgeon.
Explaining the extent to which this can damage the backbone and spinal cord, Dr Prakash says, “Sitting alone doesn’t cause any severe problem as such. However, it weakens your vertebrae to such an extent that you are more prone to injuries.

The pressure imposed on the spinal cord can cause your discs to bulge, thereby pressing against the spine.” Under such conditions, a small jerk, even bending down to pick something can cause the discs between the vertebrae to slip. The condition is called sciatica or slipped disk.

Though people respond to non-surgical methods of treatment for slipped discs, sometimes surgery is required. Another condition referred to as instability in common terms could be caused due to repetitive stress and not taking breaks in between sitting.

“Many people neglect their pain and think that it would subside with a day’s rest. But’s that’s not true with every case. If the frequency of back pain is higher, we check the patient for spondylolysis and spondilolythesis.

In these the patient develops tiny cracks and fractures in his backbone due to repeated stress or prolonged negligence of low back pain. Severe cases require surgery, otherwise wear a lumbar belt,” says Dr Prakash. So if you don’t want to end up wearing one to work, follow the above mentioned rules.

Back rest:

* Take a break every 25 minutes if your work requires you to sit for long hours. Take a walk for at least three minutes before you get back.

* Keep changing your sitting position to give your back some rest.

* The best position would be to move back into your chair and cross your legs. So that you have a slight slouch when you sit. A bolt upright position causes maximum stress to the back.

* Chairs shouldn’t be bolt straight, they should curve and tilt according to the mild contours of the body

* Never neglect back pains because they could also be caused due to certain underlying conditions like gynaecological problems, surgical changes, bone or tissue growth, etc.

* Exercise is important, it strengthens your backbone and makes your body flexible.

* Visit a doctor when you suffer from one and practice the spinal exercises that the physiotherapist suggests.

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