Spine health is an important aspect in our lives. It is involved in all possible movements of your body. It helps you in standing, sitting, bending and twisting. It also connects the brain to the rest of the body, assisting in controlling the movements and carrying sensations to brain. Infections, injuries, bone changes that mostly results from aging and tumours are some of the possible causes of spinal disorders apart from the major ones like inactivity and a sedentary lifestyle. When your spine hurts, everything hurts. Back pain is associated with everything from sleep problems to depression, and it can damage your quality of life. If you experience back pain or feel something is wrong with your spine, it is important to have it checked to determine the cause and start appropriate treatment.
Here are a few things you need to know about spinal disorders:
- 80% of the people in the population will at one point in their lives suffer from spine, neck pain or back pain.
- In low and middle income level countries like India, back pain very much under-reported.
- Back and neck pain symptoms are experienced by at least 50% of the working population. They are the two major reasons why people in work places seek leave.
- According to the Global Burden of Disease Study, low back pain is the 6th most burdening disease.
- At times, they may cause physical disabilities leading to loss of physical or economic independence.
- They carry the 4th greatest impact on the health of the world population.
Prevention is better than cure
Let’s discuss some of the measures one can take to prevent spinal problems. Exercise and good posture are easy to forget in today’s sedentary society. However, making them a priority in your daily life will pay off as you age as they condition and alleviate the pressure on your spine.
Sit up straight: Hunching is bad for your back. Always try to sit straight. However, sitting up straight for too long without a break can also cause strain. If you work in an office setting, make sure your chair is at a height where your knees are at a 90-degree angle or slightly above your hip level, your feet can rest flat on the floor, and you have proper lower back support. Make sure to stand up every 20 minutes or so, stretch, and take a quick walk several times a day to keep from getting stiff or causing injury.
Exercise: Stretching and warm-up exercises help to activate your muscles. Gradually build up your routine. Strengthen your back by strengthening your core and trunk by exercises focused on strengthening your abdominal and back muscles apart from regular exercises to improve your overall fitness
Sleeping: Studies show that a medium-firm mattress offers an ideal amount of support to help prevent back pain. Mattresses that are too firm or too soft will hurt your back in the long term. Always sleep on your back, and if you tend sleep on your side, put a pillow between your knees to help keep your spine straight.
Watch your weight: Being overweight not only puts extra strain on your spine, it is also related with lots of other disease which can increase damage to your spine. Keep active and maintain a healthy BMI (Body Mass Index).
Correct and Incorrect Postures
Debunking some myths about back pain
Myth: Rest is the best way to treat pain.
Fact: A short period of bed rest may reduce acute neck or back pain, but it is typically advised to limit this period to no more than two days. Any longer and you run the risk of actually increasing your pain. Inactivity leads to muscle stiffness, further increasing the pain.
Myth: My parents had a back or neck condition, so I will as well.
Fact: There is no genetic predisposition for most back and neck conditions. However, many poor lifestyle choices can be passed down from generation to generation.
Myth: Back pain is usually psychological.
Fact: Most cases of back pain will not follow the typical medical approach of specific structural diagnosis and remedy, but the pain is still real. Persistent back pain symptoms should be investigated by a qualified spine specialist to rule out serious problems.
Myth: There is a standard “cure” for most causes of back and neck pain.
Fact: Every back pain is different from other. There is no “one size fits all” diagnosis or treatment for spinal problem or pain. Spine specialist may run a battery of test to reach to appropriate treatment plan for you.
Remember, your spine supports you day in and day out, preserving it is a simple, yet significant investment in your health.
Dr. Anurag Saxena is a Senior Consultant Neurosurgeon and Spine Surgeon at Narayana Superspeciality Hospital, Gurugram.