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Manage your family’s spine issues

Tuesday, January 01, 2019

Dr Umesh Shetty discusses some common problems faced by working parents and their children who are studying and offers some useful tips

Today our lifestyle, work conditions and various other situations in our lives make an impact over our physical wellbeing. Most importantly, our bone and joints, and in particular, the spine, affects both parents and children.
Neck pain in desktop workers
Many people who work on the desktop for most of the day suffer from neck pain, which usually arises from muscles, tendons and ligaments in and around the cervical spine (the neck). One should avoid working on computers for long periods as it would strain the neck.

 However, neck pain can be avoided by taking a few precautions such as placing the computer monitor at eye level so that the neck is not stretched upwards or downwards, sitting in front of the computer and closing eyes and looking at the top one-third of the computer screen, while opening them. If the computer screen is downwards, then raise the monitor upwards.

 Also, laptops most often require the user to angle his or her head downwards, so connecting the laptop to a separate monitor or screen would offer help and comfort.

 While using cell phones or texting messages, there is a tendency to look down at the mobile phones and this may cause a strain in the neck. One must consider restricting use of cell phones. In order to avoid neck damage from texting, raise the cell phone or mobile to eye level, minimise texting time while resting hands and device on a pillow; take frequent breaks.

 Holding the cell phone near the ear would cause the head to tilt a little and this may cause a sprain in the neck. The best way to speak on the cell phone would be to use ear phones, particularly when a phone is used for a considerable amount of time.

 Using any type of hands-free device, such as a headset or earpiece, is a great way to talk on the phone without being tempted to hold your phone incorrectly.

 Keeping neck muscles strong by doing short sets of strengthening and stretching exercises throughout the day is also helpful.

 Drinking plenty of water during the day to nourish and hydrate the discs—the spongy structures that lie between the vertebrae in your neck—is useful. These discs are made up of mostly water, so staying well hydrated will help keep discs pliable and strong.

 Avoid carrying a heavy purse or a bag on one side of the body. This uneven load can cause shoulders to become uneven and strain the muscles. When you lighten the load by carrying only essential items in the bag and keep shoulders levelled at all times while carrying the bag or purse, it helps. A backpack can also be used as it helps in distributing weight evenly across both the shoulders.

 Maintain supportive posture as poor posture can cause neck pain. It causes strain on the muscles and ligaments that support the neck. In a head and shoulders forward posture, there is a strong possibility of neck pain and this should be avoided.  
School children and heavy bags
Most schools ask their students to carry all text books and notebooks, unmindful of the fact that this may cause postural changes among children while carrying heavy loads. Many children often complain of pain in their lower back or spine or neck or shoulders, as a result of which they get postural discomfort and cannot play or engage in sports activities.

In a recent move, the HRD Ministry has issued guidelines on the weight of school bags, suggesting that for a Class X student it should not exceed 5 kg and for Class I and II it should not go over 1.5 kg.

 Carrying bags full of books can cause children to develop serious spinal problems. When a student’s carries a heavy bag, his or her body will have to compensate by tilting forward to counter the effects of gravity. This can change the alignment of the child's posture and increase strain on the spine. The bag's weight might also damage the muscles of the upper shoulders due to compression.

 It is quite possible that children might not show symptoms of pain immediately. However, in the long-term they may develop imbalances in the body and this may affect the health of the nervous system. Parents are advised to ensure that their children have quality backpacks, with shoulder pads that are carried on both shoulders and not on just one shoulder.

 Moreover, children also should be encouraged to be more active in order to strengthen the spine and have them examined by a doctor on a regular basis.

Dr Umesh Shetty is Director, AXIS Orthopaedic Hospital, Mumbai

Short Takes

  •     Neck pain can be avoided by taking a few precautions such as placing the computer monitor at eye level so that the neck is not stretched upwards or downwards
  •     Children should be encouraged to be more active in order to strengthen the spine and have them examined by a doctor on a regular basis.
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