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Updated: December 3, 2012 11:44 IST

When your body gives it back

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Why it makes sense to look after your back

Sixty-year-old Leela Krishnamohan, retired teacher, used to lead an active life till lower back pain practically immobilised her. She found it difficult even to get out of bed and a doctor advised her to go in for surgery. But, some more consultations later, she was advised a month’s bed rest and to learn the correct posture. Today, she is back on her feet. “Although surgery is essential for some patients…[for others,] methods such as regular exercise and stretches are worth a shot,” Ms. Krishnamohan says.

What causes backache?

Spine specialists point out the need to get to the bottom of backache. They agree that a majority of lower back pain cases don’t require surgery or intensive treatment; bed rest would suffice. “Only people who have a nerve root compression … need surgery,” says S.S. Praharaj, spine and neurosurgeon.

According to him, some of the most common causes for lower back pain are muscular skeleton strain, faulty posture, and disease in the bones of the spine and disc. He also states that among the other multiple causes of back pain, infections such as TB, and tumours such as metastases of the spine cause pain in the lower back.

A study published in the Lancet states that non-specific lower back pain has become a major public health problem worldwide. It mentions that the lifetime prevalence of lower back pain is as high as 84 per cent. The article also states that around 12 per cent of the population is disabled due to lower back pain.

Diagnostic techniques should include taking the history of the patient and clinical examination but the article states: “The use of clinical imaging for diagnosis should be restricted.” The study recommends self-management of the condition and adds surgery should be avoided.

Doctors also point out the need to maintain a correct posture by avoiding bending for a long time and lifting weights, and using a comfortable chair.

Mahesh Bijjawara, chief spine surgeon at Jain Institute of Spine Care and Research, emphasised the need to choose a comfortable mattress with coir and foam. It is advisable to change the mattress every two years.

Alternative way

Admitting that lower back pain may need the intervention of spine specialists, therapist Padmini Menon, founder of Back on Track, points out that the Alexander technique, which helps people learn to use the right posture and eliminate physical tension, can help eliminate back pain.

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