16 November 2008
by Anoop Jaipurkar &
Umesh Isalkar, TNN
Thirty–two–year–old Sameer Khekale, a finance personnel with an IT company, knows his pain. There was a time when he had to travel 44 kms every day from Pimpri to Vimannagar and back. It was okay for some time, but gradually, the ‘Trek’ started to take a toll on his back. It was only after he started exercising regularly and reduced his travels, coupled with painkillers, that he could deal with this persistent ailment.
There are many like Sameer who have had a brush with pain, and they know how difficult it is to get over it. Enduring pain can indeed make life a living hell. “You cannot sleep, work, and socialise. You even find simple day–to–day activities a daunting task,” says Kunal Borkar, a 23–year–old techie, who spends half of his day before a computer terminal.
In fact, every one of us have gone through some or other kinds of pain. But, some pains persist and could grow to dangerous proportions resulting in chronic ailments like spondylosis, arthritis, migraines, etc.
Everyone undergoes an episode of low back, neck or shoulder pain. While a few manage it deftly with proper medical assistance and other alternative therapies, others just resort to over–the–counter purchase of painkillers that provide temporary relief, but worsens the problem over a period of time.
Elaborating on the common examples of poor body ergonomics, Lokapur adds, “Slouching with shoulders hunched forward, not balancing weight on both sides of the body, cradling the phone between the neck and shoulder, wearing high–heel shoes, tight clothes or defective sleeping postures can be the causes.”
Weakness of muscles and abnormal stretch on ligaments is primarily attributed to lack of exercises. “Commonly, this manifests as a typical slouch, shoulders not braced, a bent back and loss of normal lumbar curvature. In the early days, the body fights back, but with time, the system gives up, which results in neck and shoulder pain,” says Ashish Babhulkar, consultant, shoulder and joint replacement surgeon.
Expressing concern at the ‘epidemic–like” growth in cases of back pain, neurologist Sudhir Kothari says, “A poor posture and ignorance about body ergonomics results in slow and steady damage. Stress on tissues, bones and ligaments contribute to wear–and–tear and leads to degenerative disc problems.”
Explaining further, Lokapur adds, “Poor postures force muscles to work harder for supporting the spine, which leads to fatigue, strain, and back pain.” Dwelling on a few of the commonly seen habits that may trigger back pain, Lokapur says wearing high heels cause the pelvis to arch forward (causing sway back), placing extra stress on the lower back. A condition called ‘Shopper’s tilt’ can be precipitated by unevenly distributing weight one is carrying. “People carrying heavy laptops or bags are common victims of neck–shoulder pain. A variation of ‘shopper&lrquo;s tilt’ and ‘traveller’s droop’ is a familiar experience to anyone who has ever tried to lug a heavy suitcase,” says Lokapur.
Even talking on a mobile may result in neck problems. “Some people have the habit of cradling the cell phone between the shoulder and the neck. Not only does this put stress on the neck, it may force the cervical discs to put pressure on the nerves.–
Explaining the management side of such pains, Babhulkar said, “When a person develops a chronic posturerelated pain, he needs to understand that the process has been initiated years. Hence, the task to restore it can be through weeks of exercise only.”
Medicines are mainly analgesics and muscle relaxants. If the problem is correctly diagnosed, a scientifically designed exercise programme can relieve pain in a matter of few days.
Back to Nature
Though Allopathic medicines are proven antidotes to pain of any sort, more and more medical practitioners agree on applying a more natural way of treatment devoid of any side–effects for pains of chronic nature.
Naturopathy, meaning, natural treatment, of late has gained recognition as an effective way to treating not just obesity and disorders of digestive system, but also hypertension, diabetes, allergies and in this context, musculoskeletal problems like bodyache or the more severe arthiritis and spondylosis.
Common backache can be treated effectively using a combination of massages, dietary regulations and yoga asanas. This three–dimensional approach is the basis of naturopathic treatment.
However, a healthy, balanced diet essentially is the most important focus area.
“Our body has been blessed with a natural immune system which helps it fight off most ailments, allergies and injuries. But with rapid changes in lifestyle and neglect towards health, this protective system is disintegrating, leading to multiple problems including body pains,” says Indradhamani, a junior naturopath at the city–based National Institute of Naturopathy.
A sedentary lifestyle resulting from increased use of computers and vehicles, coupled with lack of exercises sometimes results in constriction of certain body nerves and eventually muscle spasm.
The worst affected are neck, back and head. If untreated at an early stage, it may also result in severe problems like arthritis or cervical spondylisis, she added.
Naturopathy applies a holistic approach using a combination of yoga, massages and a specified diet to treat the pain.
Necessary changes in lifestyle also form a part of the therapy. “Treatment at a wellequipped naturopathic centre for typical and common neck and back aches includes sand fomentation, water fomentation, hydrotherapy and ipsum bath,” said Indradhamani.
Naturopathy doctors claim that treatment ranging from week–long session to a month or slightly longer should prove effective for most common pains and even severe ones like arthritis.
“However, adhering to a healthy lifestyle – yoga or exercise, balanced diet and refined thought process are necessary to reap the benefits of the treatment throughout life,” Indradhamani added.
Yoga to the Rescue
Everyone would agree that yoga is “the panacea for most health ailments”. However, the fact that it works uniformly on all aspects of a person makes it the most comprehensive and holistic approach in treating ailments and leading a healthy life. “Asanas remove the physical discomfort accumulated during a day at the office – sitting in a chair, hunched over the desk. Relaxation techniques help maximise the effectiveness of ever–diminishing time–off. In an age of mobile phones, computers and stresses of all kinds, yogic practices make great personal and business sense,” says Anil Khadakkar, former scientist and a yoga teacher for the last 20 years.
Check your Posture
As doctors would tell us, common pains stem from sitting or sleeping in a wrong posture. Therefore, it would be a good idea, to start sitting right. Here’s some tips...
- Sit up with your back straight. Your buttocks should touch the back of your chair
- All three normal back curves should be present while sitting. A small, rolled–up towel or a lumbar roll can be used to help you maintain the normal curves in your back
- Distribute your body weight evenly on both hips
- Bend your knees at a right angle. Keep your knees even with or slightly higher than your hips. (use a foot rest or stool if necessary). Your legs should not be crossed
- Keep your feet flat on the floor
- Avoid sitting in same position for more than 30 minutes
- At work, adjust your chair height and work station so you can sit up close to your work. Rest your elbows and arms. Keep your shoulders relaxed
- The pillow should be under your head, not your shoulders, and should be a thickness that allows your head to be in a normal position
- Try to sleep in a position which helps you maintain the curve in your back (such as on your back with a pillow under your knees or a lumbar roll under your lower back; or on your side with your knees slightly bent). Do not sleep on your side with your knees drawn up to your chest. You may want to avoid sleeping on your stomach, especially on a saggy mattress
- Select a firm mattress and box spring set that does not sag. If necessary, place a board under your mattress. You can also place the mattress on the floor temporarily if necessary. If you’ve always slept on a soft surface, it may be more painful to change to a hard surface. Try to do what’s most comfortable for you
- Try using a back support (lumbar support) at night to make you more comfortable. When standing up from the lying position, turn on your side, draw up both knees and swing your legs on the side of the bed. Sit up by pushing yourself up with your hands. Avoid bending forward at your waist