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  • Watch your back! Long commuting hours may break your spine

    Published on March 13, 2019

    Contributed by Dr. Sai Krishna B Naidu, Consultant – Orthopedics & Sports Injuries, Columbia Asia Hospital Sarjapur Road

    The need for money, the rush for success and the patterns of survival have probably made our lives look quite lavish from a distance but at the cost of our health. The lifestyle that is led by the corporate employees comprising long hours of sitting on the desk, careless postures and extended work shifts is becoming a problem in more than one ways for the body. While the IT-professionals maybe climbing the ladder to success, they are rapidly moving away from a fit healthy body. This lifestyle change has a barrage of diseases as it’s after effect but the often ignored yet quite serious one remains the issue of the spine. Working for long hours at a stretch on laptops or computers, sitting on chairs without any movement over a continued duration, glancing through mobile screens are some of the modern day bad posture scenarios among the majority of the population. The impact these inappropriate postures can have on one’s back and hence the spine are often considered not so serious. However, doctors highlight how important it is that these are taken seriously and necessary measures are adopted to avoid any major issues especially among those working in the IT-sector as they are the ones at the highest risk of spinal problems owing to their work lifestyle.

     Slouching of the back, spine, neck, and head has been linked to show disastrous effects on the comprehensive health of a person, resulting in backaches, spine damage, slip disc and cervical pain as major worries. Doctors have reported nearly one-fourth of the population in their early 20s and 30s being treated for back and spine conditions. Almost half of the IT-hub i.e. Bengaluru’s population in the middle age group complains of spine problems, owing to the prevalent IT work culture.

     Sitting in itself is quite a stressful posture for the spine as it increases the load on the discs to twice as much as while standing. Stiffness and soreness of the neck have become the most common occurrence only due to the long sitting hours. Long spans of sitting in a position are also known to cause a muscular imbalance known as ‘upper crossed syndrome’, wherein shoulder blade retractors weaken and pectoralis (breast) muscle shortens. This results in around upper back, which further leads to tightened neck muscles, also stimulating neck pain that radiates to shoulders and even a headache at times.

     Apart from the extensive hours and bad postures, smoking, another occurrence among IT professionals, has been observed as a major reason that deteriorates the health of the spine, which sources several other health troubles. Smoking adversely affects physical exercise and hormonal activity as well, both of which specifically influence bone formation. When one smokes, the oxygen amount reduces in the blood, in return increasing the levels of carbon monoxide and other harmful substances. This further combined with the effects of smoking on heart and blood vessels can restrict the advantages of physical exercise. Not just that smoking also decreases bone density as well as the supply of blood to intervertebral discs, (the discs that separate adjacent vertebrae). This exposes the person at great risk of developing osteoporosis, facet disease, spinal arthritis, other degenerative spine conditions and health problems of the intervertebral discs. When cartilage, vertebrae and intervertebral discs get weakened, the chances of a herniated disc or bulging disc also shoots up, inducing disc material to disturb spinal nerves.

     The complications of severe back pain often limit the person’s mobility, damage his/her nerves, also lead to depression followed by the above-mentioned conditions and more often than not the person ends up gaining weight.

     Spinal problems once deeply rooted in a person’s body can create a permanent space in one’s life and ensure a lifetime of struggle and helplessness. So it is important to not ignore what has already been said and help attain a successful engagement. If the pain persists, it is advised to consult a doctor or physician, depending on the severity. Small alterations in everyday habits can help you not just save your spine but also your entire body and thus the whole lifetime as one’s body is what goes beyond with a person till the last breath.

     Some tips to keep in mind

    Ø  Avoid stooping. While sitting, pay heed to the lower back and assure it is well rested.

    Ø  Pay attention to your foot position. While you put your foot down, first strike the heel while walking. This will keep your knee pain and lower back problems at bay in the long run.

    Ø  Palms and elbows should be used as weight bearers while getting up from a sleeping position and not the neck to save yourself from cervical pain.

    Ø  Avoid jerks and twists while carrying weights, else you are at the risk of inter-vertebral slip disc. Also, tie a cloth around the waist to serve as a brace during heavy work that involves lifting and bending.

    Ø  While you are working in front of a computer for long hours, ensure your elbow and wrist are rested while typing, and your system is at eye level.