By: Dr. Umesh Srikantha
Back pain today and especially lower back pain have become a chronic ailment in India. The disease is no longer limited to the elderly but is also increasing among the youth. Long working hours along with a sedentary lifestyle is putting too much strain on our spinal discs and back muscles and has highlighted the need for us to take steps and prevent any long-term complications.
Several reasons like sports injuries, excessive stress over flexible joints, and congenital spinal problems can cause chronic back pain among children and teenagers. Additionally, substance abuse too can cause adolescents to experience back pain. According to several recent studies, it has been found that adolescents who smoke cigarettes, drink alcohol, and are suffering from mental health conditions like depression and anxiety are likely to suffer from back pain more frequently. For instance, 14-15-year-olds who consume alcohol and smoke tobacco experience back pain more than once a week than those who rarely or never had pain.
This combination of back pain along with unhealthy habits also creates long-term complications in adulthood. The use of toxic substances in early adolescence increases the risk of substance abuse and mental health problems in adulthood and makes the developing brain more susceptible to the negative influences of these substances which also has consequences on our spine.
Chronically poor posture during adolescence in rare cases can stretch the ligaments and can give rise to curved or slightly humped back called kyphosis. In a few cases, back pain can also indicate the emergence of unrelated problems to the spine such as Kidney problems that can cause lower back pain problems on either side of the spine. In certain rare cases, back pain can also be caused by a tumor.
We share a few tips that can help you maintain spinal health and can prevent back pain.
Maintain a good posture
People who work long hours on their computers usually slouch a lot which puts pressure on their back muscles, spine, and neck and causes pain. Similarly, the ones who are on their mobile phones, often lie on their stomachs with their necks arched upwards which can lead to spine damage. Hence, maintaining an upright posture in alignment with the neck and the lower back and following the correct desktop monitor or laptop level can prevent damage to their spines.
Taking short breaks
Taking short and frequent breaks can help in reducing both work-related mental stress, as well as the physical stress on our spines. Sitting in one position for extended hours is unhealthy and can worsen back pain. Thus, movement while working for longer periods is recommended as it can strengthen the muscles and nerves.
Our sedentary jobs weaken our trunk, core and lumbar muscles, and spine and cause back pain. Exercises like partial crunches, bridge, hamstring stretches, knee-to-chest, cat stretch, and shoulder and neck rolls can help restore the fluidity of our muscles, joints, and spinal discs and can alleviate the pain.
Regular brisk walking too is an easy-to-do and effective way to relieve back and spine pain. Walking and exercising can also help in reducing weight, increasing blood flow to the muscles of the spine, and raising the oxygen and nutrient levels in the blood which rejuvenates the muscles and relieves pain.
Adopting a balanced diet
Avoid fatty foods and consuming plenty of water can also help you avoid back and spine problems. Consuming low-fat, calcium, and protein-rich diets that are filled with essential minerals can help you in keeping your weight in check and can reduce the overall pressure on your spine.
Our spine is a marvel of engineering that consists of a series of vertebrae that extend from the skull to the small back, enclosing the spinal cord and providing support for our thorax and abdomen. It comprises basic structures such as vertebrae, disks, cervical spine, thoracic spine, lumbar spine, and coccyx which are held erect to provide balance to our body. Living in constant pain for a longer period can have a debilitating impact on the quality of life for many patients. Even the simple daily chores will seem like a huge task When the pain becomes persistent even after months of conventional treatments. So, let us pledge this world spine day, that we will take care of our spine and take steps that can help us in leading a healthy life.
(Dr. Umesh Srikantha, Consultant - Neurosurgery, Head of Spine Services, Aster CMI Hospital)