What’s causing that back pain?
Most of us have complained about back pain at some point or the other. Studies indicate that maintaining a bad posture while standing and sitting can lead to pain in the muscles and connective tissues of tendons. “Poor posture becomes a habit if you continue sitting improperly for long hours, leading to permanent muscular imbalances. This limits the movement of various joints, which leads to undue pressure on the body while playing sports, lifting anything around the house, running, or doing any simple physical activity,” says Rajat Chauhan, a doctor specializing in sports and exercise medicine and musculoskeletal medicine.
Often pain in the neck, back and the hips, and the tingling sensation in the knees can be related to the way we carry out regular activities. Maintaining a good posture for each activity could reduce the chances of such pain.
For example, if you carry a bag on one shoulder, do you find that your shoulders and neck are stiff by the end of the day? Repeatedly experiencing this pain, and not doing anything about it can lead to injury, because “your one shoulder is taking the entire load, while the other one is always stretched. Instead divide the load by taking your laptop bag on both shoulders (like in a backpack)”, says Vijaya Baskar, lead of rehabilitation at Nightingales, a home healthcare company in Mumbai.
Also, avoid carrying anything too heavy. Opt for a bag that can be carried on both shoulders, thereby dividing the weight equally, like a backpack.
For women, wearing heels for long hours at a stretch can lead to back, hip and knee pain. “If it is a platform heel, it is much better. But when the toe is flat and the heel area is raised, it changes the whole mechanism of the body,” adds Baskar.
Wearing heels causes the knees to bend and compensate for the weight on the toe. The hip is also strained, inducing pain in the hip, back, ankles and the knees. Try to wear comfortable shoes, flats or platform heels, especially when you have to stand and make a presentation.
Back pain, however small, can make life difficult. It is easier to prevent this than cure it. Small changes, regular exercise, and being mindful of your posture even when you aren’t doing anything actively can make a huge difference.
We take a look at some poor postures and ways to correct them.
Sitting at your desk
A corporate lifestyle means we are sitting in one position for hours on end. “Sitting with a bad posture can lead to strain on the neck and back, and also constrict the airways, leading to cardio respiratory problems later,” says Vijaya Baskar.
In the photograph on left you can see how we may round our back and stoop forward. “A good way to prevent this is to rotate your shoulders and keep your spine straight without overarching your spine. Rest your arms on the desk as it will prevent you from rounding your back,” says Heath Matthews, consultant sports physiotherapist with Sir HN Reliance Foundation Hospital, Mumbai.
Holding your cellphone
Physiotherapists and chiropractors say they have seen an increase in the number of young patients complaining about neck pain. “Normal pain, from sleeping wrong, should go away naturally. But if the pain does not go away, consult your physiotherapist,” says Baskar.
In most cases, the pain is caused by the constant craning of the neck to look at a cellphone held at an unnatural angle. Sometimes we balance the phone between our shoulder and ear while continuing to work. This can lead to shoulder injury because of having lifted up one side for a long period of time.
“The ideal way to read or send texts on your phone is to hold the phone at eye level while standing. This reduces the strain on the neck. Also, keep the phone screen about 30cm away from the face, so as to not let your eyes get affected,” adds Matthews.
Driving can be stressful enough given the traffic congestions. It is important to maintain the correct posture while driving. In the photograph on left, the driver is sitting too far forward and is also peering ahead, which strains his neck muscles. Keep the chair more vertical than slanted at the back. “Never take your seat too far behind or too close to the steering wheel, as this has an adverse effect on your spine and neck. An easy way to check this is that if your hands are straight at the elbow, you are sitting too far, if they are bent at almost 90 degrees, then you are too close. An ideal bend should be around 45-60 degrees at the elbow,” says Matthews.