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Fit & Proper: Does your back act up often?

Vipul Sethi, a senior executive with a Gurgaon-based firm, has been experiencing pain in his back for the last two weeks. What started as a niggling sense of discomfort has grown into a condition where he finds it difficult to perform even basic everyday tasks. Sethi, like several other young professionals, spends seven to nine hours in front of a computer. Here’s what the doctor has to say:

An increasing number of young people in the age group of 30 to 45 are coming to me with back problems, which was not the case earlier. The first sign is stiffness in the back when you wake up in the morning. But this stiffness eases as you move about and the muscles on the sides of the spine get warmed up. The irritating feeling in the back returns during the day and you find yourself shifting in the chair. As the problem progresses, you experience formication – that feeling of ants crawling – at the back of the thigh. This sensation can go right down to the ankles and toes.

Left untreated, back pain, which is a physical ailment, can also lead to mental discomfort. It results in disturbed sleep, which further aggravates the condition which further affects sleep. This becomes a disturbing cycle and can make a person irritable and insecure.

Back ache is caused when the muscles get fatigued, either due to poor posture or lack of exercise. The back has a high number of ligaments. These are tissues that bind the bones together and are protected by muscles. When the muscle is tired, the load falls on the ligament. Excessive load on ligaments, which take longer to heal if damaged, can cause localised back pain or if the nerves going down to the leg get affected, it could lead to sciatica.

Often, someone will advise you to take a muscle relaxant. This is counter-productive. It will relax the back muscle, no doubt, and give temporary relief, but this will put strain on the ligament. A muscle relaxant should be an option only if you have pulled a specific muscle, say, the hamstring. If there is a persistent pain in the back, rest for a day or two. But if you are not better within 48 hours, see a doctor. Back muscles become weak very fast. Building them again can be a nightmare.


* Lie down with your legs bent with a pillow under the knees to relax the nerves

* Hot packs help. You could apply towel soaked in hot water and squeezed dry

* Keep the back strong. Exercise regularly by gently bending forward, backward and sideways. This will also take away those obnoxious metabolites that have collected in the muscle

* Whether you are working on a laptop or desktop, ensure that the screen level is between that of the chin and the eyes

* Every 40-45 minutes, get up from your workstation and walk around for 5-10 minutes

S K S Marya
Chairman, Max Institute of Musculoskeletal Sciences


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