Potholes taking a toll on physical, mental health of Mumbaikars

Craters on our roads are taking a toll on the physical and in some cases, mental health of Mumbaikars

Tara Verma, 28, Oshiwara resident is six months pregnant and has been advised by her doctor to reduce travelling especially now that the monsoon is here. Potholed roads are the top reason for this advice, says Verma. For the advertising professional who works at Nariman Point commuting is a necessity.

Pregnant precautions
Verma says, “I can't afford to sit at home for the duration of my pregnancy. For the future of my unborn child, I need to earn money and if I don't work now I will lose my job. My bosses have been very understanding, but going on leave till I deliver will be unprofessional.”

Potholes are a perpetual pain during the monsoon for commuters in Mumbai. Pics/Nimesh Dave
Potholes are a perpetual pain during the monsoon for commuters in Mumbai. Pics/Nimesh Dave

While travelling, Verma's husband has made his car available for her as travelling by autorickshaw and public transport is not feasible for her at this stage of her pregnancy. The mum-to-be says, “Now that the rains are here the roads are in a terrible condition. I have a car to take me; but sadly all pregnant women in the city are not blessed and have to commute daily on these hazardous roads.”

Dr Sanjay Bakshi with a patient. Pic/Pradeep Dhivar
Dr Sanjay Bakshi with a patient. Pic/Pradeep Dhivar

Agreeing with Verma, Aarushi Pal, 32, a Borivali resident who had a premature delivery last year due to potholes causing her to go into labour a month earlier says, “I have my own car but due to the bumps and potholes on the Western Express Highway I almost suffered a miscarriage, this time last year. I still remember the horror of the incident. I went into labour in my car.

Shailendra Mishra
Shailendra Mishra

Fortunately, my driver took me to the hospital and after a forced Cesarean Section, my baby was born. We had to keep her in the incubator, but now she is normal. Last year, around this time my family and I had the worst time of our lives.” Dr Disha Shah, a gynecologist in the city says, “I have seen many women who suffer miscarriages due to potholes.

Also, there have been a number of my patients who have been forced into labour prematurely due to bad roads in the city. With many women opting for late pregnancies, the chances of miscarriage are high. Potholed roads do not help the problem much.”

Common man's woes
The number of people in Mumbai suffering from back pain has increased in the last five years; potholes are a leading cause for this. Dr Sanjay Bakshi who runs Physioline, which specialises in Physiotherapy and Rehabilitation says, “Potholes occur due to wear and tear of roads especially in the monsoon, resulting in accumulating rainwater.

Injuries like lower back pain; cervical spine pain and whiplash injury are very common due to potholes. Sometimes, potholes lead to an accident which might lead to serious and fatal injuries like brain or spinal cord injury.” Explaining some of the injuries he has had to deal with this year, Bakshi says, “This monsoon, there have been many cases of back pain that have been caused or aggravated by potholes.

One of our patients with severe degeneration of the low back complains of increasing pain, stiffness and inability to stand and walk immediately after the bumpy rides he has to face because of the potholes during his journey from home to our centre and way back. So we had to give him an extensive spinal rehabilitation program focusing on the pain and stability of his back.”

Chronic back pain has been a huge problem for Sion resident, Praful Jha, 66 as he says, “I had met with an accident almost 30 years ago. After a series of operations at that time, I was well but in the last few years, my back pain has started, again. The doctor after doing an X-Ray and conducting a series of tests told me that bad roads have caused my injury to flare. I am on painkillers now and cannot travel by public transport due to potholes that have aggravated my condition.”

Aches and pains
Wasim Khan, 70, a Vikhroli resident says, “I am a senior citizen and suffer from osteoporosis. These Eastern Express Highway potholes are a huge menace. My bones literally rattle every time my rickshaw goes over the potholes. I love the rains, but hate the potholes.”

Mira Road resident, Shailesh Mishra needed treatment in hospital after an accident due to a pothole, a few weeks ago caused his right leg to get infected. The 35-year-old was given wrong treatment by a hospital in his area and was admitted to Nanavati hospital for treatment.

His niece, Dr Upasana Mishra, a physiotherapist says, “I saw that he was being given wrong treatment and shifted him to Nanavati. Fortunately, there was no fracture, but the wound is festered; so the condition is quite severe. He cannot walk and is in acute pain.”

Dr Jayesh Lal, a physician says, “Senior citizens and middle-aged people are the ones who complain most of back problems like stiffness, degeneration, etc due to pothole-ridden roads. Generally, July and August are the months when I notice a rise in back pain related complaints. Often, if the pain is bearable, people take some painkillers at home and do not come to us. But when they do, the condition is in acute need of treatment.”

Agreeing with Dr Lal, Dr Mohita Shergill, a radiologist in Bandra says, “The number of doctors referring patients to us during the monsoon is very high. Most X-rays show spinal chord ailments; there is some swelling and dislocation in rare cases. The pothole menace is a huge problem in the city and has huge medical ramifications. The X-rays tell a very sorry story.”

Rise in cases
“Well, the problem with potholes on our roads is that they cause significant jarring of the back when cars or bikes or autorickshaws go through them. With a large number of the population using autos for transport, we are seeing an increase in the number of patients who come in with back and neck problems. This can be attributed to the poor suspension and shock absorbing systems in place,” says Dr Niraj L Vora, Joint Replacement and Trauma Surgeon.

Dr Vora adds, “As most vehicles slow down to a bare minimum speed while going over a pothole, this leads to traffic jams where tempers flare and honking definitely affects mental health and well-being of all involved. Thus, the health implications of potholes go well beyond the occasional ache and pain."

Talking about the patients who have come to her and the treatment she has been giving them, Dr Mishra says, “Now that my uncle has suffered a pothole related injury I am more aware from the patient's point of view. I have been helping many of my patients with basic back exercises so they can get over back aches and spinal chord related issues.

These pothole woes are a huge bane to the health of Mumbaikars. From last year to this year, there has been a great rise in the number of patients who have come to me. Back problems during the monsoon are becoming a common problem due to pothole woes.”

The cost of treatment
Financially, the treatment for back aches and other pothole related issues is also a strain that the common man in Mumbai can do without. “The duration of treatment for injuries caused by potholes varies on the intensity and severity of injury. A mild low back ache would take around 10 to 15 days time to resolve completely.

Similarly, the cost of the treatment also varies; however, on an average a minimum treatment cost of pothole injuries would range anywhere between Rs 2,000 to 5,000,” says Dr Bakshi. Dharmesh Chhada, 49, who suffers from degenerative back condition which has become worse by travelling on roads in the city says, “I have to spend Rs 10,000 every month on medicines and doctor's visits due to my back injury.

Every year, my condition keeps getting worse. I have written numerous letters to the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation and Maharashtra government asking for the potholes to be fixed. It is not about money, but about my health that I am worried.”

Undergoing treatment for the last five years, Chhada says he keeps meeting more and more people who are suffering in the city due to potholes. “The potholes reflect not just bad roads but an ill system that needs urgent attention. The authorities need to pay attention and do something at the earliest.

The condition of the roads in the city and the health of citizens because of them are in a sad state. We pay huge taxes and have to pay lofty medical bills too due to horrible roads,” ends the businessman.

Caution is better than cure
>> The rider or driver needs to be more vigilant while riding or driving, to avoid speeding and sudden braking. 
>> Pedestrians should wear proper closed footwear to avoid any twisting injuries the affect the ankle and the knee. 
>> People who are already injured must use a lumbo-sacral belt or a cervical collar to avoid any further deterioration. 
>> Passengers should use extra cushions behind their back while sitting in the car. 
>> The driver as well as passengers should compulsorily use seat belts as a precautionary measure. 
>> Two-wheeler riders and the person sitting behind as the pillion rider should always wear helmets.

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