Do you have a weak spine?

January 9, 2018
By Iqra Sarfaraz

Back pain in your 20s and 30s was not a common problem back then. Currently, young adults often face it due to sedentary lifestyle and other reasons. You! finds out...


Back pain in your 20s and 30s was not a common problem back then. Currently, young adults often face it due to sedentary lifestyle and other reasons. You! finds out...

Back pain was associated with old age but now it’s one of the most widespread public health problems faced by young adults. A large population affected by it constitutes a heavy burden on national health in terms of diagnostics, treatment, absenteeism and early retirement. The psychosocial impact caused by the untimely withdrawal of active people from their daily activities can severely affect the quality of their life.

This week, You! highlights some of the main causes, symptoms and preventive measures to look out for back pain in young adults. Read on...

Back Muscle Strain: When ligaments and muscles in your back are stretched or suffer from microscopic tears causes you pain. It’s often caused by lifting heavy objects, excessive exercising, sudden movements or twisting into an awkward position

They often heal on their own with the help of some rest, ice and/or heat application, anti-inflammatory pain medications and gentle lower back exercises.

Symptoms: Difficulty in walking or standing up straight without pain is a clear symptom of back muscle strain. Also, a dull pain and stiffness or soreness upon being touched in the lower back area shouldn’t be taken lightly. A pain that does not radiate down your legs, but moves around your lower back area, groin and buttock shows that you have a back muscle strain.

Lumbar Degenerative Disc Disease: It can affect individuals as young as 20. When the lumbar discs between your vertebrae begin to break down, the damaged disc can cause painful inflammation and slight instability in the lower back, which brings about muscle spasms and sometimes sciatica. This disease is common and is often successfully treated.

Symptoms: Back pain intensifies when sitting for prolonged periods. Low-level of constant lower back pain punctuated by episodes of severe pain/muscle spasms lasting a few days to a few months.

Lumbar Herniated Disc: A herniated disc refers to a problem when a disc in your spine starts to lose its fluid. Sometimes, you won’t even know you have a herniated disc, other times it can cause severe pain called sciatica. It causes pain and numbness along the sciatic nerve that serves the buttocks, legs and feet.

Symptoms: This pain is more intense in the leg and foot, rather than the back. It is typically experienced on one side of the buttocks or leg and is severe after long periods of standing or sitting still, but relieved when walking. Also, it is more of an intense tingling or burning rather than a dull ache. Often, sciatica is accompanied by weakness, numbness or difficulty moving the leg or foot.


Easiest way to avoid back pain is to have the right posture throughout the day...

Sit straight: Your shoulder blades should touch the backrest of the chair. When driving, set your seat slightly backwards and your elbows should feel comfortable.

Adjust your computer screen: You should be eye-level with the screen, knees lower than the hips and feet flat on the floor. Using a laptop or tablet encourages poor posture so make sure you are eye-level with the screen. Stack up some books for height, if needed.

Take regular breaks: Don’t sit for prolonged periods. Walk around and stretch after every hour or gently massage the back of your head and neck as you relax your stomach region with slow easy breathing.

Foods that help beat back pain

Plant-based diet & fish: A mostly plant-based diet that includes things like flax and chia seeds; eat in combination with omega-3-rich coldwater fish like salmon, mackerel, sardines, tuna, and trout to avoid inflammation.

A diet full of nutrition: Carrots, beets, sweet potatoes, cherries, berries, grapes, pomegranate and watermelon. Coloured fruits and vegetables (especially greens like kale, spinach, and broccoli) help reduce inflammation in cartilage in the spinal column.

Anti-inflammatory agents: Herbs and spices, including basil, cinnamon, ginger, garlic, onions, oregano and turmeric are rich in anti-inflammatory agents. Also, drink healthy herb teas and true teas (green, oolong and white); and use olive oil.

Other options for anti-pain diet: Avocados; nuts (walnuts, almonds, pecans, and Brazil nuts); lean proteins, such as chicken and turkey; beans; and cocoa.

Food to avoid

Some people avoid nightshade vegetables (tomatoes, eggplant, white potatoes and peppers) as part of an anti-inflammatory diet. However, no research supports this but avoid them for two weeks to see if symptoms disappear. Consult a registered dietician.

Preservative-packed products with long shelf-life like chips and crackers; processed foods, fast foods, and saturated fats like white bread, pasta, rice, sugary drinks and fried foods. Opt for poly- or monounsaturated oils, such as canola or olive oil, when cooking. Avoid caffeine and alcohol as well.

The Calcium factor

Make sure you’re getting enough of the nutrients, such as calcium and vitamin D as bone mass becomes hard to maintain with age. It can cause conditions like osteopenia or osteoporosis, which weaken the vertebrae in your spine.

Don’t take a high dose of calcium supplements; it increases risk for heart problems, bone fractures and atherosclerosis. Get calcium from natural foods like yogurt, milk, cheese and leafy green vegetables. In other case, consult your doctor for supplements as they vary for teens (1,300 mg) and adults (1,000 mg).