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Back and neck pain on the rise in teenagers, says doctor

M3 India Newsdesk Jul 18, 2020

Amid school and college closures, many teenagers are attending online classes from home. Sitting without a proper desk in wrong postures for long hours, invites a temporary neck and back pain that doctors are seeing more and more of, lately. Notably, the government has capped the hours of screen time for school students this week.

According to Dr Ashwani Maichand, Senior Consultant Orthopedic Surgeon at Delhi's Apollo Spectra Hospital, many teens are complaining of end-of-the-day lower back stiffness because of persistent contraction of postural muscles. Temporary back pain and neck pain issues have started cropping up among teenagers as e-classes and gadget usage are taking a toll on the skeletal health of children.

"One of my young patients, a student preparing for NEET examination, reported in our OPD with her mother. She complained of sudden early morning neck spasm. She was unable to turn her head to left side. On enquiring I came to know that she had taken an online crash course for quick revision," he told IANSlife.

As per the doctor, the young girl was taking six hours of classes per day with mock tests and discussions with her tutors going on simultaneously. It took her one week to come back to normal with medication and physiotherapy. Lockdown spurred on low mobility in people, especially students. Laptops and smartphones have become a daily part of life for teens as they attend online classes.

Another peculiar problem that is new to this age group - otherwise common in middle age and elderly - is generalised bodyaches, says the doctor. The hospital - which teleconsults for such cases - receives calls from these problems by teenagers on a regular basis. "It is because of lack of sunlight exposure. It leads to Vitamin D deficiency causing osteopenia. Osteopenic bones can't tolerate even normal stresses, if we add bad posture and prolonged sitting -- the obvious result is bodyaches.

"As parents, it's our duty to understand the deadly mixture of indoor restriction, limited social interaction, little exercise, examination stress and their psychosomatic consequences. We must not add the burden of high expectations on these young shoulders," he said.

Dr Maichand warns that if a kitchen table or a sofa has become the children's desk at home then it is time to switch to healthy habits for managing the back and neck pain. The specialist adds, "To reduce back and neck pain, teenagers must take frequent breaks while attending online classes. Do stretching, back, neck, and shoulder exercises. Do not hunch while using a laptop, phone, or tablet. A warm and cold compress can be helpful, exercise without fail, and incorporate fresh fruits, beans, legumes, vegetables, and healthy fats in your diet. Bid adieu to fried, oily, and packaged foods, and also keep your calcium intake right."

Maintaining correct posture, doing back and neck exercises, and eating wisely can alleviate back and neck pain that can cause serious problems in the near future. Ignoring back and neck pain can result in permanent damage, he concludes.

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