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Say back-off to back ache

Dr Mukesh Batra gives you an upfront look at back ache and how to beat it

It is not surprising that backache is responsible for 24 per cent cases of absenteeism at work. In this modern world which encourages a cushy life with long hours of sitting, sleeping on foam mattresses and lack of exercise, backaches are as common as a cold or a headache.

Interestingly only human beings suffer from backaches and the complaint increases with increasing modernisation. This is primarily due to modern lifestyle which involves sitting in a particular posture for long stretches of time, absence of exercise, sleeping on soft surfaces like foam mattresses.

Backache is commonly seen in disorders like spondylosis, disc prolapse, congenital abnormalities and trauma. There are however at least 20 varieties of diseases which can manifest as backache. Whatever the cause of your backache there are measures you can take to ease the pain. The easiest thing to do is apply local heat by means of a hot water bottle. There are some general precautions, which those suffering from backache need to follow.

The best way to prevent common back problems is to stay fit and active. Staying active will also help control your weight which is one of the primary reasons of back pain. The easiest way to ease your back pain is by applying local heat by means of a hot water bottle. While lifting heavy objects keep your back straight. Poor lifting technique is a major cause of back strain and injury. Injuries are less likely if you are fit and have strong back, stomach and leg muscles.

Here is the correct lifting technique:

  • Make a firm base with the feet, keeping them about shoulder width apart.
  • Lift with the legs, bending the knees rather than the back
  • Do not kneel or overbend the knees
  • Keep the chin held in and raised as this helps keep the back straight
  • Ensure the load is as close to the body as possible
  • Keep the arms and elbows tucked in close to the body
  • Do not twist the back but change direction by moving the feet

Other precautions to be taken during your day-to-day life are

  • Avoid high heels.
  • Do not sleep in your chair.
  • Use a cushion to support the small of your back
  • Use a hard bed.

These precautions provide relief from the pain and in combination with constitutional homeopathic medication; they provide a complete solution to the problem. The homeopathic medicines are prescribed to deal with the underlying disease condition, which causes the backache thus giving a chance to the patient to lead a much more comfortable and productive life.

(The author is chairman and managing director of Dr Batra’s Positive Health Clinic Ltd. and can be contacted at help@positivehealthclinic.com)

Tips for the Traveller

It is no secret that long hours in a plane, train, bus or car does not do your back much good. Back ache is rated as the third commonest complaint after headache and tiredness. Women outnumber men in back problems. For travellers, it is a perennial hazard due to the long hours of sitting in one posture. Frequent travellers who beat the system and successfully staved off back ache give these tips:

  • If you are on a plane or train, get up and walk around for a few minutes every hour. On long car trips, stop every hour and walk around. Sitting increases pressure in the vertebral discs and this makes it all the more painful for people with lower-back problems.
  • If you cannot walk in a plane or a train for some reason, stand up periodically. Standing upright reduces the strain on the lower back.
  • The art of sitting for long hours is to tuck a small pillow in the gap between your lower back and the seat to counter the tendency to slump.
  • Sitting slumped is disaster. While standing, the lower portion of your back - the lumbar region curves inwards but whilst sitting, it tends to slump outwards squeezing the ends of the vertebra discs, cutting off their supply of nutritious fluids.
  • It is useful to empty your back pockets when sitting for hours. Sitting on a thick wallet or a bunch of keys gives an unnatural twist to the spine.
  • Sitting long with legs crossed is bad for the back and legs. It contracts the leg muscles, distributing weight unevenly on the hips and pelvis.
  • It helps if you rest your feet on a briefcase or carry-on bag on the floor. This elevates your knees above the hip making the lumbar spine curve inwards rather than outwards.
  • If suffering from back problems, limit your luggage to less than 15 kilos. It’s recommended that you distribute the weight evenly by carrying one small suitcase in each hand. A large suitcase carried in one hand would result in asymmetrical loads on the spine.
  • With two small suitcases, position them close to your sides, bend both knees, grasp the handles and slowly straighten the knees. Maintain an upright posture.
  • Travel with suitcases that have attached wheels and retractable handles. Alternatively, carry a light portable luggage carrier with wheels. Push rather than pull.
  • Lifting heavy bags is riskier in early morning. Fluids pool in your spinal discs while you sleep, making your lower back extra sensitive to irritation on waking up. Therefore, if you are leaving early in the morning, better load the car the night before.

Mohinder Singh