World Spine Day #BackinAction
- October 27, 2021
World Spine Day is observed by health professions and public organizations concerned with spine care every year on October 16th. The theme this year reflects the need to reset and refocus on spinal pain and disability as part of the global burden of disease. With an estimated 540 million people in the world suffering with low back pain at any one time, and India at 60% in this statistic, it remains the leading cause of years lived with disability.1
World Spine Day also recognizes the lack of access to quality spine care and rehabilitation in under-served communities, which results in chronicity and permanent deformity. 1
Blogchatter, in association with Pfizer, organised an awareness drive through a conversation with Dr Surya Prakash Rao Voleti to discuss lower back pain, possible causes and treatment options, aimed at getting ‘back in action.’
Dr Voleti has specialized in spinal surgery and has been working in this area for over two decades. He is one of the few amongst the orthopedic fraternity in the state of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana doing dedicated work in the field of spine surgery, particularly in the management of spinal deformity.
Dr Voleti was in conversation with Richa Singh, co-founder of Blogchatter and he touched on many important aspects of spine care.
Causes of Lower Back Pain
Dr Voleti explained that the lower back comprises the lumbar spine, which is formed by vertebral bones, intervertebral discs, nerves, muscles, ligaments, and blood vessels. It is sturdy and resilient but it is subject to high degrees of stress and load, which can cause problems, resulting in pain.12 So bad posture over a period of time can lead to lower back pain.13
Mechanical issues and soft-tissue injuries can cause low back pain. These injuries can include damage to the intervertebral discs, compression of nerve roots, and improper movement of the spinal joints. The single most common cause of lower back pain is a torn or pulled muscle and/or ligament. If you lift something heavy incorrectly it can cause strain on your back. A fall is another example. 2
A herniated disc, degenerative disc disease, osteoarthritis, etc can cause chronic lower back pain. 2
Taking Care of the Spine in Modern Work Scenario
Since many people had to start work from home in recent times, prolonged sitting hours were not very conducive to good spine health. Dr Voleti gave some tips to take care of their back in such a scenario.3
- Regular exercise
- Watching your weight
- Sleeping well, on a proper mattress
- Correct posture
- Taking frequent breaks
- Checking how you lift heavy things, in a manner that the back is not strained
Taking Care of Spine if You have to Stand for Long Hours
Some people, like teachers and healthcare workers have to be on their feet for long hours. In such a case, Dr Voleti recommended the following: 4
- Take a break from standing – sit from time to time
- Wear good shoes
- Keep your table at waist height
- Change positions even while standing
Signs and Symptoms of Spine Problems
Dr Voleti explained that signs and symptoms depend on the specific spine disorder and often affect other parts of the body, depending on the area of the spine or spinal cord that is affected. Common symptoms include:5
- Abnormally rounded shoulders or back
- Back or neck pain that can be sharp and stabbing, dull and aching, or burning
- Bladder or bowel dysfunction
- Nausea and/or vomiting
- Pain radiating in the arms or legs
- Stiffness or tightness
- Uneven appearance, such as one shoulder or hip being higher than the other
- Weakness, numbness, or tingling in the arms or legs
One should consult the doctor if your back pain hasn’t improved within a week or if the pain is intense, especially when you lie down, if it extends below your knee or there is swelling or redness on your back. Seek immediate help in case of an injury or there are new bowel/bladder control problems.6
A doctor can help a person identify potential causes of lower back pain and recommend appropriate treatment after a thorough physical/ neurological exam, looking at family history and your risk factors.5
Keeping Your Spine Healthy
While ageing is a natural process, Dr Voleti discussed some of the ways in which a person can have a healthy spine: 7
- Strengthen core muscles
- Focus on your posture
- Have a balanced diet
- Stress and physical problems – back problems in particular – have been proven linked together. Reduce stress
- Build strength with exercise
- Speak to your doctor in case of concerns
Treating Spine Problems
Back pain is considered chronic if it lasts three months or longer. It can come and go, often bringing temporary relief, followed by frustration.8 Dealing with chronic back pain can be especially trying if you don’t know the cause.
Dr Voleti talked about the options available to a patient other than surgery. These are injection-based treatments, pharmacologic treatments like muscle relaxants, pain meds, braces, etc., but they do not change the source of the pain. Often medications and surgery are opted for when we’ve used up the other options.8, 9
Apart from that you also have physical therapy, massage therapies, lifestyle modifications, exercises, etc. There is also surgery that one can go for. The best person to guide you on this is of course your doctor 8
Dos and Don’ts for Spine Health
To make sure that your back stays healthy and no unnecessary strain is put on it, here are some dos and don’ts:10
- Get the right mattress
- Don’t sleep on your stomach, instead sleep on your side or back
- Don’t jump out of bed as soon as you wake
- Get the right kind of vehicle
- While working, you should be at eye level of your computer
- Get a chair that supports your middle and lower back
- Use the right form and technique to bend, lift and reach
Diet and Lifestyle Changes
Certain foods are packed with what your back needs in order to remain healthy and strong. So good back health can start with making the right food choices. Food rich in proteins, calcium, fruits etc help in strengthening the spine.11
There are also simple exercises you can incorporate for better health.3 This, especially is necessary in a work from home scenario.
Dr Voleti wrapped up the talk by stressing that patients should not merely look up their symptoms on Google. Since they are not qualified enough to understand the context, it can lead to anxiety that can further exacerbate their condition. The best thing to do is to consult your doctor.
Your spine helps you perform basic functions like standing up, moving, balancing, and bending. The stronger your bones are, the better they will function. When your vertebrae are not healthy, they can collapse, crushing the surrounding nerves, sometimes causing pain or disability.14
To help prevent injury, avoid or reduce pain, and maintain a healthy spine, choose healthy habits — this could lead to big impacts in the quality of your spine health, as well as overall health and wellness. 14 So, it is important that you keep in mind the symptoms, and also work towards creating a healthy lifestyle. Never hesitate to reach out to doctors when you suspect something.
- Welcome to World Spine Day. Available at: http://www.worldspineday.org/ [Accessed on 11 Oct 2021]
- Spine Health. Causes of Lower Back Pain, updated April 2017. Available at: https://www.spine-health.com/conditions/lower-back-pain/causes-lower-back-pain [Accessed on 11 Oct 2021]
- WebMD. 16 Ways to Avoid Back Pain, updated September 2021. Available at: https://www.webmd.com/back-pain/tips-for-pain-relief [Accessed on 11 Oct 2021]
- Spine & Pain clinics of North America. Tips for Managing Back Pain Due to Standing on Your Feet for Long Time Periods, posted May 2021. Available at: https://www.sapnamed.com/blog/tips-for-managing-back-pain-due-to-standing-for-long-time-periods/ [Accessed on 11 Oct 2021]
- UT Southwestern Medical Centre. Spine Disorders. Available at: https://utswmed.org/conditions-treatments/spine-disorders/ [Accessed on 11 Oct 2021]
- Mayo Clinic. Symptoms Back Pain, when to see a doctor, updated September 2020. Available at: https://www.mayoclinic.org/symptoms/back-pain/basics/when-to-see-doctor/sym-20050878 [Accessed on 14 Oct 2021]
- Orthopaedic Associates. Keeping Your Spine Healthy As You Age, published February 2019. Available at: https://www.oaidocs.com/2019/02/08/keeping-your-spine-healthy-as-you-age/ [Accessed on 11 Oct 2021]
- Johns Hopkins Medicine. 7 Ways to Treat Chronic Back Pain Without Surgery. Available at: https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/back-pain/7-ways-to-treat-chronic-back-pain-without-surgery [Accessed on 11 Oct 2021]
- Spine Health. Non-Surgical Treatments for Lower Back Pain, updated April 2017. Available at: https://www.spine-health.com/conditions/lower-back-pain/non-surgical-treatments-lower-back-pain [Accessed on 11 Oct 2021]
- WebMD. Back Pain Dos and Don’ts, reviewed March 2014. Available at: https://www.webmd.com/back-pain/features/back-dos-donts [Accessed on 11 Oct 2021]
- Spine Health. Food for Thought: Diet and Nutrition for a Healthy Back, updated March 2017. Available at: https://www.spine-health.com/wellness/nutrition-diet-weight-loss/food-thought-diet-and-nutrition-a-healthy-back [Accessed on 11 Oct 2021]
- Spine Health. Lumbar Spine Anatomy and Pain, updated January 2020. Available at: https://www.spine-health.com/conditions/spine-anatomy/lumbar-spine-anatomy-and-pain [Accessed on 14 Oct 2021]
- Spine Health. Is Poor Posture Causing Your Back Pain? updated January 2020. Available at: https://www.spine-health.com/blog/poor-posture-causing-your-back-pain#:~:text=Prolonged%20hunching%20while%20standing%20or,the%20trunk%20and%20lower%20back.&text=An%20unsupported%20sitting%20position%20places%20a%20small%20forward%20bend%20on%20the%20spine. [Accessed on 14 Oct 2021]
- Spine Health. Answers To Your Most Pressing Spine Health Questions. Available at: https://spinehealth.org/answers-to-your-most-pressing-spine-health-questions/ [Accessed on 14 Oct 2021]
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