Back to Basics!

Chronic back pain can greatly interfere with the quality of your life. However, with a little care and effort, you can ensure that too much action never puts you in traction, says Kamala Thiagarajan

Published - August 02, 2012 08:40 pm IST

IS YOUR SPINE FINE? Beware of back ache

IS YOUR SPINE FINE? Beware of back ache

Second only to the common cold, back pain is the most prevalent problem experienced by people of all ages, all over the world. According to the NIH (National Institute of Health) in the US, 80 per cent of people have been plagued by back trouble at some point in their lives. Often, the symptoms seem to strike without warning, surfacing as a sudden sharp pain in the small of the back, or a dull throbbing ache that radiates from your shoulder blades to your arms. If you're no stranger to frequent backache, here are some tips to stay pain free.

Spinal support

The one piece of advice that you'd regularly hear when anyone tells you about how to defeat backache is invariably to improve your posture. Slouching constantly can indeed be harmful, putting 10 to 15 times more pressure on the lower back and leading to chronic pain. But no one can sit or walk in a ramrod straight posture every day (unless of course, you've just retired from the military). While being aware of our posture and assuming a fairly erect gait can help, many of us tend to neglect our seating arrangements. "We spend a great of time over a desk, so it's important to ensure that your chair offers complete back and spinal support, especially in the lumbar, cervical and thoracic area" says Dr T Vivek, consultant orthopaedic and joint replacement surgeon, St Isabel's hospital, Chennai. "Ideally, your chair should support your neck and your entire spinal column, while allowing you to recline with ease. Your feet should be placed flat on the floor. If you observe a bad posture while you sit or stand, over a period of time, this can translate into chronic pain."

Mattress matters

You'll know if your mattress is the culprit if back pain greets you first thing in the morning. Comfort has always been a priority while selecting a mattress, so many of us tend to make the mistake of opting for one that is too soft. "A foam mattress offers no support to the spine and only serves to aggravate a bad back," says Dr Vivek. "I'd recommend a coir or cotton mattress. Your mattress should be reasonably firm. Sleeping on a very hard surface can damage your back too, so it's never advisable to sleep on the floor."

Ideally, you should change your mattress every five to seven years, depending on quality and how much use you've gotten out of it. When you're evaluating a mattress for replacement, assess it's general wear and tear. Notice especially whether the springs sag and weather it offers firm back support. "Don't use too many cushions around you," says Dr Vivek. "It's a myth that you need to surround yourself in big cushions; these won't relieve the pain. Be especially wary about the pillow you use for your neck. A thin pillow works best." Even the way you wake up in the morning can dictate whether you stay pain free. "Never rise with a jerk, even if an alarm is blaring in your ear," cautions Dr Vivek. "Rise gently, while turning to your side. Place one foot on the floor and support your weight on one hand before you lift yourself up."

0 / 0
Sign in to unlock member-only benefits!
  • Access 10 free stories every month
  • Save stories to read later
  • Access to comment on every story
  • Sign-up/manage your newsletter subscriptions with a single click
  • Get notified by email for early access to discounts & offers on our products
Sign in


Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide by our community guidelines for posting your comments.

We have migrated to a new commenting platform. If you are already a registered user of The Hindu and logged in, you may continue to engage with our articles. If you do not have an account please register and login to post comments. Users can access their older comments by logging into their accounts on Vuukle.