Backaches and spinal problems have never been uncommon, but when every fifth patient visiting a specialist to consult remedies for spinal issues is a young office goer in 30s, you know there is a dangerous trend.
Spine experts say they are alarmed by the rise in numbers of young office professionals in metro cities,
who are reporting spine problems that were earlier more prevalent in relatively older people. Dr. Rahul Gupta, Senior Neuro and Spine Surgeon, Fortis Hospital (Noida) said, “spinal problems, especially back pain, stiffness in neck and shoulders, immobilization or locking of joints, sore feet, swelling feet and legs often accompanied with pain are some of the common complaints from people who have long hours of sedentary jobs coupled with long commutes to work spending up to 3 hours standing or sitting daily in private vehicles or public transportation like metro, bus or trains.” Sitting in the same position for extended periods of time and repetitive movements like using a keyboard and a mouse can cause repetitive stress injuries on the joints, muscles and nerves. Sitting in the same position for more than 4 hours a day is harmful to the spine.
“Prolonged sitting in same posture can add a tremendous amount of pressure to the back muscles and spinal discs, a slouched position can overstretch the spinal ligaments and strain the spinal discs and cause major pain in back and neck. The health hazards of long-term sitting are recognized worldwide. So much so, that many organizations in the west have introduced the culture of standing or flexible workstations to enable employees take a break from sitting. Similar to sitting, prolonged standing also has health implications. Standing keeps the body in an upright position, which requires considerable muscular effort. Prolonged standing results in pooling of blood in the legs with reduction in blood in active circulation. Insufficient blood flow further accelerates the onset of fatigue and causes pain in the muscles of the legs, back and neck, the muscles that maintain the upright position of the body, thereby affecting the spine. Both long-term sitting and long-term standing are equally bad.” says Dr. Raju Vaishya, Sr Consultant Orthopaedic & Joint Replacement Surgeon, Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals, New Delhi.
Apart from the physical stress that hurts the spine, the mental stress and anxiety as a part of today’s lifestyle further leads to increased incidence of backaches, neckaches and shoulder pains. It’s strongly believed that the cause of back pain from anxiety is mostly secondary – meaning that anxiety isn’t literally causing back pain, but anxiety is causing behaviors that lead to back pain. , said Dr. Sunil Mittal, a reputed psychiatrist and director of Cosmos Institute of Mental Health and Behavioural Sciences(CIMBS), New Delhi.
“Back aches and spinal issues have always been common, but what is alarming in recent times is the number of younger men and women they are afflicting. Prolonged work hours which do not allow time
for appropriate walking or stretching breaks, lack of physical exercise in daily routine, sedentary jobs, long hours of commute to work are factors that are responsible for this surge. Another factor is rise in the incidence of obesity due to poor dietary habits and lack of physical activity again putting further burden on the spine and lower extremities causing and aggravating the problem. Also, due to lack of exercise the muscles and ligaments in our back and joints become weak and can suffer injuries even with small actions like lifting weight,” says Dr. Rahul Gupta.
Besides prolonged sitting and standing and lack of physical activity, regular urban office goers also face spinal issues due to not so people friendly mode of commutation. With people either commuting with self-driven vehicle or public transport, damage is caused to the neck and the back during the travel.“Unscientific speed breakers also cause injuries. A slight miss in acknowledging the bulge and a person may end up with a whiplash injury causing painful and numb neck or limbs.” says Dr. Rahul Gupta.
Besides these, osteoporosis, malignancy, inflammatory diseases (arthritis), other metabolic bone diseases, and hematological diseases are some other issues that lead to spinal problems.