10 Million Ghanaians living with spinal problems
BY: Edmund Smith-Asante
Some Yoga exercises are believed to be good for the spine
Six out of 10 Ghanaian adults have some form of back pain or have had it in the past according to available statistics, Chiropractor, Dr Naa Asheley Dordor has quoted.
The research report she quoted from, the (European Journal of Research in Medical Sciences), indicates that females had a higher prevalence of 56 per cent while males had 44 per cent of the total population of adults who experienced lower back pain (LBP).
That brings the number of Ghanaian adults experiencing some form of spinal challenges to an approximate figure of over 10,228,561.2 using the 2017 estimated total population of 27,499,924.
Out of the 2017 population 17,047,602 Ghanaians were aged 15 to over 65. As of 2014, however, the World Population Review estimated Ghana’s population to be 29.46 million but puts the current estimate at 29,646,493. According to the chiropractor, who is one of Ghana’s only 15 specialists who deals with the spine, the challenge experienced in the country was due in part to the traditional or cultural way of carrying out certain activities, as well as the postures most people adopt in their line of work or at home.
Causes of spinal problems
She told the Daily Graphic in an interview last Thursday; “Traditionally a lot of the things we do can cause these spinal problems.
For instance, we have a cultural way of carrying things which is putting them on our heads and that can cause a lot of problems on the spine and also the way we sweep using very short brooms and then we bend down for hours sometimes sweeping, that can also cause a lot of waist problems.
“So that is why when you talk to people, everybody is complaining about waist or knee pains. Even the way children learn – sometimes they lean on the table and write.
The way the children carry heavy bags to school – in the Western world most schools have cupboards or what we call lockers so the children keep most of their books and other things in there so they just walk to school or they just take their lunch pack to school, but here, we have children carrying all their books to school and back every day and that also can put a very big strain on the spine,” she said.
Sharing her experience with hawkers who visit her clinic, she said, “Sometimes they come to my clinic and you see a very young person in their 20s and when you look at their x-ray, you realise there is a lot of degeneration (spondylosis) in the neck especially, and the reason is the activities that they are undertaking which is causing that degeneration because usually you wouldn’t see that much in such young people.”
She said the most common things that impacted negatively on the spine were falls, injuries, car accidents and posture.
“A lot of people sit for very long hours and in very bad postures.
If you are working on a computer and your computer is not positioned well, all those things can cause spinal problems which lead to the back pain, headaches, joint pains, scoliosis which is an abnormal curve in the spine, sciatica – all those things can come from postural problems.
“We also have stress which commonly also causes spinal misalignment and even chemicals that go into our bodies.
We have toxins in the air; if you are eating a lot of bad food, it can weaken your balls and once your balls are weak, then they can also go out of alignment,” she explained.
Spinal challenges are, however, not only peculiar to Ghana, as worldwide about 80 out of every 100 persons experience lower back pain at some point in their lives.
Dr Dordor described the spine as the most important part of the body which houses the nervous system.
“The nervous system is the body’s master system just like the computer’s CPU which controls the functions of the computer”, she added.
“In the same way, the nervous system makes everything work , the spine is what protects that nervous system so if that spine goes out of its normal position, it can gravely affect that nervous system.
“That is why we chiropractors make sure that the whole spine is properly aligned from the base of the skull to the waist line,” Dr Dordor said.
Chiropractors use their hands to remove any pressure from the nerves which is responsible for sending information to all parts of the body.
Dr Dordor said, therefore, that it was very important that everyone (young and old) had his or her spine checked because “sometimes there is a problem but you will not or you may not necessarily have pain or you may not have any symptoms.”
She noted that “for instance, there are people who are born with scoliosis and this always breaks my heart because with scoliosis in children, they usually don’t show any symptoms at all until they are older, then they start experiencing the back pain, and then they try to fix it.
At that point, it is usually too late”.
She reiterated that both children and adults needed to have their spines checked by a qualified chiropractor specialised to check and treat subluxation---a misalignment in the spine.
Dr Dordor, however, cautioned the general public to beware of all sorts of quacks parading themselves as chiropractors.
“Make sure you are seeing a properly accredited chiropractor who can look at your spine and find any misalignment or subluxation and give you the right recommendation for treatment,” she said.
According to her, after one had checked his or her spine and there was the need for treatment, it would be the responsibility of the individual to maintain proper posture as much as possible while working or at home.
“Sitting on the couch all day watching television can cause problems for you so this doesn’t only relate to people working but if you are sedentary and you are always lying in your couch watching tv with your neck awkwardly propped up, you can get a spinal problem.
“If you are in the market selling and you are not walking much but you are just sitting down and calling people to your stall to sell, because of your sedentary and long hours of sitting, that can also cause problems for you because the way God created the spine, it was meant to move and not meant to be stationary all the time.
“So it is very necessary that whatever you are doing, every 30 to 45 minutes, you walk around a bit then you can come back and continue,” she advised.
World Spine Day
It is to raise awareness of spinal health and spine disorders to individuals, communities, professionals and all stakeholders associated with spine care that the World Federation of Chiropractic, on behalf of the Global Alliance for Musculoskeletal Health, has since 2012 coordinated World Spine Day (WSD) which has 500 official organisational supporters worldwide and is marked on October 16, each year.
In its seventh year this year, the commemoration is also aimed at providing a forum for ongoing discussion about the burden of spinal disorders and the sharing of best practices; and promoting an interdisciplinary, collaborative approach to ease the burden of spinal disorders.
With “#LoveYourSpine” as its theme, this year’s WSD is expected to highlight the importance of spinal health and well-being.
Promotion of physical activity, good posture, responsible lifting and healthy working conditions will all feature as people are encouraged to look after their spines and stay active.
It is estimated that one billion people worldwide suffer from back pain which affects all age groups, from children to the elderly.
It is known as the biggest single cause of disability on the planet with one in four adults estimated to suffer from back pain during their lives.
Prevention is, therefore, key and this year’s WSD, among other things, will be encouraging people to take steps to be kind to their spines.