Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Watch your back!

Lower back pain is the most common ailment among the middle-aged across all classes of people. Timely precautions can enable one to avoid debilitating pain

By Shevlin Sebastian

Dr Jacob Kani, a senior journalist based in Delhi, is lying on his back at the Kumar International Specialty Centre for back and neck pain at Thammanam, Kochi. Above his head is a television set where a Malayalam film song is being shown. Suitably distracted, he is not aware that a disk in his spine is being pulled, with the help of the 'DaVinci X10', a decompression system, worth Rs 55 lakh. Two things happen when the disc is pulled.

“A negative pressure is created,” says back pain specialist Dr. Sasikumar. “This will help the disc to recede into the spine.” When that happens water fills up inside the disc. This is possible since the spine is surrounded by body fluids. One immediate result: the cushioning effect in the disc will become better.

Meanwhile, there is a smile on Jacob's face. “I feel much better,” he says. “This is my fourth visit to the centre. Whenever I come to Kerala, I undergo a treatment because I have a chronic back problem.”

On another bed is a nun, Sr. Arpita, who stays in Bhagalpur in Bihar. She is on her annual visit to her parents' home in Kochi and is being treated for lower back pain.

So what exactly is a lower back pain? There are 24 pairs of moving vertebrae in the spine. Between each of them, there is a disc, which acts as a shock absorber. This disc has two parts.

“There is a fluid inside which is encased in a hard, outer covering,” says Sasikumar. “When the fluid oozes out, it touches the nerves. This causes a radiating pain, which starts from the back to the legs and from the neck to the fingers of the hands.”

Lower back pain is the most common complaint among the middle aged, and it cuts across all classes of people. “You will be surprised to know that many headload workers come for treatment,” says Sasikumar. “The problem is that they rarely use the right technique to lift things.”

To lift heavy objects, the ideal way is to do it close to your body. “If it is a sack of cement, most workers lean forward and try to lift it, a couple of feet away from where they are standing,” says the doctor. “That is when the lower back is subjected to a lot of pressure. Sometimes, the discs, as well as the spine, are injured.”

People who work in the IT industry also have perennial back problems. “IT workers sit on the edge of a chair for hours together,” says Sasikumar. “Instead, they should sit with their back resting at the base of the chair. When you sit at a 100 degree angle, there is the least amount of strain.”

Another reason for back pain is stress. “There is a lot of anxiety in the workplace and at home,” he says. “All your muscles are under tension and there is a possibility of spasms taking place.”

Meanwhile, at the specialty centre, various methods like electrical stimulation, laser rays, acu-pressure massage, application of heat, and prolotherapy injections are used to relieve the pain. “The treatment is surgery-free,” says the specialist.

As for preventive measures, Sasikumar suggests a protein-rich diet. “Avoid sweets and fried foods as they produce only carbohydrates,” he says. “This increases the size of the tummy and puts a strain on the spine.” He also suggests regular exercises and a straight posture while standing or sitting.

(The New Indian Express, Kochi)


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