Many of us experience back problems at some point in our life. It might be because of picking up some heavy weights, a sudden movement that may have caused some damage or due to one having an incorrect posture while sleeping, sitting or even walking.

Today on the show I had the pleasure of speaking to Dr Lalit Sodha, an experienced chiropractor, about back pain — what causes it and what we can do to prevent it.

Dr Sodha said that sometimes we make quick neck movements or stretch the neck beyond its capacity. As a protective mechanism the muscle tightens up which is called a muscle spasm in the neck. I was surprised to know that even heavy coughing or sneezing can cause a spasm sometimes.

To avoid neck problems he said that it’s important to use the right pillows while sleeping because the neck rests for the duration of the night and needs support. A lot of times we use the feather pillows or the really soft pillows and they are not that good because they do not provide the support that is necessary for the neck when it is resting. He suggested using an orthopaedic pillow with a contour on it or a foam pillow especially when people are already suffering from neck pain, shoulder pain, tension and headaches. People who sometimes wake up with a headache or a neck ache should also take additional precautions to prevent such pains.

Growing up, I was a very mischievous kid and I often hurt myself while playing. Spraining my ankle was quite common and my mum always knew exactly what to do to help me feel better. She would either give me a warm or a cold press on the injured part and I would feel better. However, I never understood when exactly we should use a cold treatment and when to use a hot treatment. Dr Sodha said that this is the difference between a sprain and a strain. When there is a swelling or inflammation of the area then a cold treatment using ice should be given because it helps with soothing the swollen area. And a hot or warm treatment should be used when there is a muscular injury but no inflammation. Heat would help to relax the muscle and bring up the circulation and he also said that sometimes the doctor suggests to use a combination of hot and cold treatment when an injury has got a both muscle and a ligament component associated with it. For several injuries of the muscle and joint or the muscle and ligament a combination treatment is used.

Dr Sodha said that posture has got many different aspects. The 4 main postures are standing, sitting, sleeping and walking. He described the correct posture that needs to be kept in mind when sitting and mentioned that it is important to take care of your spine. If you are sitting at the desk in front of a computer then it’s absolutely important to have the

  • Back firm and straight
  • Monitor kept at eye level
  • Elbows resting on the arm chair at 90 degrees

When the posture is not right then the blood circulation does happen properly because the muscles get very tense and tight. When enough blood does not reach the brain, the oxygen levels go down and that causes the feeling of lethargy and tiredness.

Even when walking having the correct posture is important. The correct posture would be keeping your back standing upright as if a string is pulling the head upwards and choosing a comfortable stride. Dr Sodha stressed on the importance of wearing the correct footwear when walking and said that wearing high heels can affect the spine. The spine is usually straight but when we wear high heels then they can alter the lower back posture and cause back problems in the future. He said that recent studies have proved that high heels are not good for walking.

Dr Sodha also stressed on the importance of using the correct mattress. Using a very soft mattress is not good. Sleeping on firm mattress is always better so that the body does not sink in the bed. At the same time it is important that the mattress should not be hard either because that will not give any support to the back. The quality of firmness is very important for getting a good rest at night.

Sometimes during or after pregnancy women face back problems. Dr Sodha said that there is a specific hormone called Relaxin which is released during pregnancy and that loosens the ligaments. Sometimes because the ligaments are lose the neck, back, lower back or other joints in the body might hurt. Many times he said that because of holding the baby for long durations after the delivery, women might have back or shoulder pains.

Dr Sodha also described nerve pain and said that it is different from general back pain. If the vertebrae are not moving properly in the back they can trap the nerves that come out of the spine which go all the way down to the legs. If the nerve is trapped then pain can be caused in both the legs.

I had a great time talking to Dr Sodha and learning about the correct posture and discussing general back issues.