The way you sit has an effect on your spine. Here are some tips to help you avoid a pain in the back.

If you are one of those who sits at their desks in front of a computer for at least seven hours a day, bad posture is surely a part of your daily life. With your head tilted, your neck strained and your spine curved, you may wind up seriously damaging your spine.

But there are many ways to ease back pain and improve your posture by making small adjustments.

Why does it happen?

Back and neck pain is very common in people who lead sedentary lifestyles. Smoking and obesity also affect your posture and hence your back. The discs in your back are made up of 80 per cent water; they are jelly-like in substance. Smoking, obesity and a sedentary lifestyle causes that water to dry and, hence, back problems crop up. Your spine protects your neural structure, provides support to the body and also flexibility. If you don't watch out, you can suffer from a slip disc which causes immense back and leg pain.

Treatment

Back pain affects 80-90 per cent of people at some point. The commonest cause is mechanical back strain and disc prolapse. The treatment includes conservative measures like analgesics and physiotherapy. Most individuals improve with these measures. The common surgery for disc prolapse is micro discectomy.

Those who do not receive proper treatment face some degree of instability or spondylolisthesis (slipping of one vertebra over the other).Degenerative listhesis is managed by spinal fusion, which causes loss of movement at the affected level and a chance of adjacent disc degeneration.

Dynamic stabilisation is the modern treatment for degenerative spondylolisthesis by which spinal stability is restored to normalcy. The advantages are that it restores stability, maintains movements and offloads the disc.

Prevent back problems

Some easy adjustments can help prevent serious spine damage.

If you spend long hours in a chair, get up for a small walk every half an hour

If you stand for long hours, shift the weight from one leg to another

Your chair should give your back complete support. Otherwise, support your lower back with a small pillow

Never bend from your back. Always bend from your hips

On a chair, your hip and knee should be at a 90 degree angle from the ground

Your computer screen should be tilted so that your neck only bends by 30 degrees

If walking with heavy weights , carry equal weight on both sides

Exercise regularly, but consult a trainer

Eat in moderation to avoid obesity, which puts strain on the back

Avoid sleeping on the stomach and the spine should be in normal curve

Avoid high heels, which can cause back problems

The writer is a Chennai-based senior spine surgeon.

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Sunday MagazineJune 28, 2012