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Backaches & Muscle Pain? Alter Your lifestyle!

Monday, April 23, 2012
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Here's a little scenario to drive home the point. The two case studies presented in this article are true to the individuals mentioned. We are betting you can predict which one of them will achieve his dreams and which one will grow up with a multitude of health problems such as persistent backaches, perhaps even becoming obese or developing diabetes.

Rahul (19) and Nikhyl (16) are two young men living in different cities, leading active lives, eating well and harbouring ambitious plans for a brilliantly successful future. Both of their families are well off, so the boys own a computer each -- they have access to unlimited online virtual games and also enjoy video game consoles like PlayStation. Now, that's life!

Rahul's story

It's 9 pm and Rahul, a brainy 19-year-old, has long-since finished dinner and an hour's worth of studying to log onto the computer and indulge in his favourite pastime -- virtual football. In fact, he's been at it for the last four hours now. He works up a mental sweat as the game progresses -- his hard work at mastering this virtual game has made him an online star and his parents are proud of him. Their son, the tech wiz and computer gaming expert, will someday own his own gaming company.

Finally, Rahul has had enough. He flops in front of the television for another hour or two, to relieve the stress the high-intensity game brings on -- it often tenses up his shoulder muscles and makes his eyes water.

When hungry, Rahul usually snacks on cookies, cheese, colas and other 'cool' junk food. He dislikes fruit and vegetables, but then he feels and appears to be rather healthy -- he weighs in at 72 kgs, not overweight for his 5'5" frame. Except for fracturing his leg last year and the occasional twinge of pain in his shoulder blades, he is living the good life.

Nikhyl's story

Nikhyl, 16, is a student of Class XII with an excellent academic record. An avid swimmer, he swims for two and a half hours, six days a week, averaging 2000 yards per session and burning an equal number of calories.

Nikhyl often comes home after practice and works on the computer for nearly four hours at a stretch. He relieves his strained and fatigued muscles by frequently stretching them. He rarely watches television and sticks to a high carbohydrate and protein diet to supplement his energy and build his muscles. Dreaming of medals makes him eat his vegetables and fruit and you'll never catch him with a fizzy drink in his hand.

Nikhil's weight -- 62 kgs -- is ideal for his his lanky 5'10" frame and he's never complained of backaches or suffered any bone injuries. He stays fit to face the toughest competition in the pool.

Time to turn in your predictions, people! It's really not that hard to figure out what the future holds for these two young men. Rahul is inviting a host of health problems from which Nikhyl is well-protected, the most common being musculo-skeletal disorders (MSDs). More and more youngsters are showing up at clinics with muscular and skeletal disorders and injuries.

So what causes these problems?

  • Remaining hunched over a computer screen or being a couch potato for hours at a stretch.
  • Carrying books weighing over 5-7 kgs.
  • Insufficient physical exercise causes bones to thin out and weaken, leaving an individual susceptible to fractures.
  • Diets lacking in essential nutrients like calcium and protein further weaken an individual. Staying indoors compounds the problem, as the sun is a vital source of Vitamin D.
  • Eating junk foods and leading a sedentary lifestyle further lead to obesity and strain the backbone and muscles.
  • Now that we have predicted an unhealthy future for Rahul, what can he do to prevent it?

    The golden rules for good musculo-skeletal health are diet, exercise and good posture.

    A well balanced diet is critical. You need to consume:

  • Whole grain carbohydrates
  • Low-fat proteins like poultry, fish, nuts and beans
  • Low-fat milk (at least two glasses a day)
  • A variety of vegetables and fruit
  • Avoid processed, fried, salty and sweet foods
  • Exercise 
    Teens and young adults must perform at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity at least five times a week.


  • Maintaining a good posture while sitting, standing and walking is critical.
  • Keep moving to get the energy flowing through your body and to feel more alive. Muscles should be worked for the body to be trim and well-toned. This will help strengthen the back as well as give you good stature.
  • Make your move. Your future is yours to choose -- do you choose to be a slouch potato or a winner?

    Poonam Vaswani, Dietitian



    User Comments

    23 May, 2012 | Bhavini | Reply

    Bhavini I remember playing mostly outside in my school days and was only able to watch tv on sundays. That was black and white tv!.. I missed those days for sure. With current trend high tech plays important role in kids life. I guess they feel inferior if they do not have or know computer game. Most of kids are indoors which is restricting physical activities. Its very important for parents to teach their kids and be their role model by following healthy eating and more physical activity, streching.

    I wish to see the life style of my childhood come back!!!!!!

    23 May, 2012 | Sharanya | Reply

    Sharanya Very aptly stated by Seema. Children may be busy but physically quite sedentary and do not work on getting a good muscle tone. Therefore if suddenly they exert themselves even a little, they are into a lot of pain due to muscle soreness.Immediate massage helps followed by gentle stretching exercises after a long rest period.
    Regular exercise can help restore proper muscle tone in children. Walking, cycling, and swimming are good aerobic activities to initiate. later a physical instructor or a physio therapist can teach them stretching, toning, and aerobic exercises to feel better and stay pain-free. It is best they begin slowly and increase workouts gradually. Ensure they avoid high-impact aerobic activities and weight lifting when injured or while in pain.

    02 May, 2012 | Helen | Reply

    Helen My Dad should be 78 years old, weights 84 kgs.He was diognised with with diabetes several years back and has been on medication for a very long time. He also has heart disease (don't know which). He does his work seated and his problem is that he is always dozing and has severe memory loss. So much that so much is stolen from his shop every other time. Could you please help

    28 April, 2011 | Vijayalakshmi Iyengar | Reply

    Vijayalakshmi Iyengar According to the National Center for Physical Development and Outdoor Play, physiologically outdoor play is the most simple and natural way to combat the epidemic of childhood obesity. Research shows that children who play outdoors are more fit and lean and if they go out on a regular basis they build a healthier immune systems, and get adequate amonts of vitamin D.

    On the psychological front playing outside enables children to relax, reduces tension and helps them solve problems. When children play outdoors, they learn to share and cooperate with one another and develop empathy. Kids who feel confident outdoors are likely to become competent, capable adults. Researchers have also found that outdoor play calms children with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder.
    SO its up to parents also to ensure children go out and play out regularly.


    30 June, 2010 | Rohit | Reply

    Rohit I agree, even small school going children are complaining about headaches and back pain now a days. It’s high time that parents as well as schools take some step and create awareness amongst children about importance of healthy eating and outdoor physical activities

    15 June, 2010 | Seema | Reply

    Seema Children today are just hooked to either computers or mobiles or televisions. They seem to be living in their own virtual world. They are not realizing that in the long run, this will really put them into trouble. Now a days, one can see even school going children complaining about headache or back pain.

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