A little more than 10 years back, I remember how shocked I was when I saw a young man, probably in his late twenties, suffer from a massive heart attack. I was naturally puzzled as we learnt in medical school that a heart attack is usually seen in those above fifty. These days, cardiologists agree that it is fairly common to see a young man/woman suffer from a heart attack. I 'm sure you are wondering, what has this to do with your back/neck pain? Like the heart attack example, it is becoming more and more common to see young men/women suffering from back/neck pain, which was once purely considered an old age issue. 

To begin with, lower back pain can happen due to several causes. However at a younger age, i.e late twenties/early thirties, it is often due to the onset of disc degeneration.The disc is a tough gelatinous structure that sits in between each spinal vertebrae and provides stability and flexibility. Wear and tear of this initiates a series of events leading to back/neck pain.  In common terms this would mean early stages of 'spondylosis'. 

An award-winning scientific research done by my team revealed that by the time Indians reach 30 years of age, 30 % start showing signs of  disc degeneration and a handful of them start having episodes of back pain. 

Is there anything you can do to prevent it or atleast slow it down?

 Imagine the discs to be like the tyres of your car. The longevity of the tyres, depends on how well you drive the car. A rough driver may need to change the tyres every few years but a good driver may be able to maintain his tyres for a decade at a time. The same applies to your spine. Factors like the following can wear out your tyres faster:

  • Poor lifestyle choices
  • Lack of exercise
  • Poor muscle tone
  • Decreased vitamins and calcium levels in the body
  • Poor posture
  • Poor office ergonomics
  • Smoking 

All these factors, contribute to an accelerated degeneration of the disc. 

While pain killers, hot compression, pain gel application and physiotherapy helps deal with an acutely painful situation, addressing the above elements will help prevent repeated episodes. 

Here are some simple hacks and tricks to avoid worsening:

  • Going for a walk twice a day
  • Avoiding bending much
  • Not lift heavy weights
  • Avoiding sitting or squatting on the floor
  • Not using your cell phone for too long
  • Keeping the computer at the eye level 

These are simple and effective tips to get moving in the right direction. 

Seeking guidance from a physiotherapist who will teach you core strengthening exercises, back strengthening exercises is necessary. Remember, at its core, back/neck pain in the absence of any obvious pathology, is a lifestyle disease. While the disc degeneration that has happened already, can not be reversed, it can be prevented from getting worse.

Dr.Shumayou Dutta