5 lifestyle disorders and therapies that have emerged to counter them

Jul 28, 2013, 05:08 IST | Phorum Dalal

Try hanging upside down on an inversion table to get relief from chronic back pain, or invest in ergonomic chairs, or a special computer mouse to cure frozen fingers. No time to go out in the sun? There's even a vegetarian vitamin D3 spray to treat the deficiency

A month ago, 28-year-old Santosh Shukla underwent an angioplasty operation where two stents were inserted at the site of blockages in his heart. Reason: The powai resident 12 hours of sitting at the desk and no time to exercise, coupled with an unhealthy diet.

Doctors say Shukla’s sedentary life and overweight body couldhave caused a cardiac blockage this early in life for the past three weeks, 41-year-old Prakash Anand has been taking inversion therapy to reduce an almost unbearable back pain. The cause? The Bangalore-based resident spends long hours working on the computer and slouching.

These two cases are obviously not isolated and will probably strike a chord with several thousand Mumbaiites, as would stories of vitamin deficiency, eye fatigue, obesity and mobile phone-induced thumb injuries.

Indeed, as medical experts say, the lifestyle of the average urban Indian youth has undergone a drastic change in the last five years -- perhaps faster than in any preceding decade in history. With habits that force us to work long, sleep less, eat at odd hours, and look good even when we are tired, personal health, sadly, is last in the list of priorities.

The price of an inversion table starts at Rs 31,000

Thankfully however, as lifestyle-related disorders, diseases andinjuries keep popping up, so do newer therapies to counter them. Take the case of inversion therapy, which involves hangingupside down to decompress the discs, or botox procedures for stilettotarsals and Vitamin D sprays to counter Vitamin B12 and D3 deficiency.

Professionals complain of backache, thanks to jobs that require long hours of sitting down, lack of exercise and wrong postures. “Who has the time to exercise regularly? Patients today understand the gravity of their back problem, but cite time constraints as a reason for not exercising,” says Dr KS Bhawish, a physiotherapist at Back Proof, an inversion therapy clinic, which launched in March this year.

Anil Nayak, co-founder of Kartavya Healtheon, a disease management company, says there are numerous factors for lifestyle-related disorders, which are affecting working-professionals, homemakers, college students and even tiny tots. “Food, stress, overall functioning of the body, environment, all play a major role in our lives. For many, a slim body is the sign of being healthy, which is a wrong notion,” Nayak says.

Decades ago, high cholesterol or blood sugar was associated with middle age. “Today, youngsters in their early 20s are being diagnosed with high cholesterol and sugar levels. They don't want to exercise; they gorge on junk food and work for long hours. How will their body cope?” says Nayak, who adds that newer medicines are being launched depending on body metabolics. “Stress is a word that is sometimes loosely thrown around, but if you are thinking too much about a particular thing, be it in your professional or personal front, you are a victim of anxiety, relatively a new-age phenomenon that the previous generations were more immune to.”

But there is a golden rule, Nayak adds, to keep your lifestyle from wrecking your health. “The first thing is to accept that things can sometimes go out of control. More importantly, one needs to re-look at lifestyle habits every now and then and adopt a routine of self-management. This could include keeping a check on the food you eat, walking regularly, counting your calories, and hydrating yourself regularly. All this may sound simple and easy, but obviously very few follow them. These are the basic tools to avert a health crisis.”

Inversion therapy
For those who think working on the laptop for a few extra hours is no big deal, talk to Prakash Anand for a second opinion. Eight years ago, one day at work, a sharp pain ran through Anand’s back. He couldn’t move. Then commenced a long-duration physiotherapy session and exercises to treat what was diagnosed as herniated disc. “I was on bed rest for three weeks,” says the now 41-year-old game producer, who works for a gaming company.

While Anand did recover from the injury, he was never fully comfortable with his back. “I took acupressure therapy to ease the pain, but long hours on the computer nullified all my efforts. While the physiotherapist had advised me to exercise regularly, I just didn’t have time,” says Anand.

Then, last month, the same shooting pain returned when he lifted a heavy object. That day, while returning early from office, Anand came across Back Proof, a centre for inversion therapy. “Curious, I walked in and ended up chatting with the physiotherapist and we set up an appointment for the next day.”

For the past three weeks, Anand has been taking inversion therapy to decompress the pressure off his discs. “My first session, which was a mix of exercises and lying upside down on the inversion table, lasted for 20 minutes. By the end I was feeling as if a weight had been taken off my back,” recalls Anand, whoadds that the pain has reduced by 90 per cent in the past 21 days.

Arvind Agarwal, a software entrepreneur who launched Back Proof, suffered before he grew wise. In 2012 he was researching a new technique to solve his chronic back pain due to long hours (interestingly enough he was doing his research on the computer as well) when he came across the concept of inversion therapy.

“I had tried everything from physiotherapy, acupressure and painkillers, which all gave temporary relief. That’s when I decided to bring the table down for myself,” says Agarwal, who launched Back Proof in Bangalore in March this year. “I knew there would be takers for this therapy as I had tried it and it worked,” says Agarwal who took the therapy for two months regularly.

Dr Rajeev Singh, a physiotherapist who works at the centre, says, “The patient lies upside down, balancing at a specific angle to release the spinal compression. When we sit or stand, the disc is compressed and a radiating pain shoots through the nerve roots that lies behind the disc. The ideal thing to do is stop sitting and standing but we can’t do that. We have to go on with our daily lives. By hanging upside down, the body works as a traction.”

And it is not the back alone that benefits from this therapy. Dr Bhawish, another physiotherapist at Back Proof, says, “When you hang upside down, you not only help your back but rehydrate the disc, reduce BP, correct a wrong posture. The oxygen flow to the brain increases and the heart takes lesser effort to pump, thereby controlling BP.”

it was mild chest pain that took 28-year-old Santosh Shukla to the doctor for a check-up. “Turns out, I had high diabetes and two heart blockages,” says Shukla, who suffers from obesity since many years. “I was on the heavier side, but I never gave it a serious thought. I ate what I liked, and didn’t really bother about my diet,” says the Chandivali-resident, who works in the back office of a chemical company, which adds to his sedentary lifestyle. 

According to World Health Organisation,  Obesity is the biggest global lifestyle threat, affecting children and adults alike

Dr Amprapali Patil, founder of Trim and Tone, who treated Shukla, says lifestyles disorders are not just because of the food we eat. “Now, we drive even to small distances. We don’t have time to walk, and processed food is a so-called ‘stress buster’. Obesity is the biggest global lifestyle threat, affecting children and adults, both. It leads to cardio-vascular diseases, sleep apnea and even depression. 

“When Shukla came to us, we were not surprised at the results. Even 25-year-olds have heart attacks these days. In spite of so much awareness about organic food, low-calorie food and diseases-specific diet foods, today’s generation is living on the edge,” says Dr Patil.

Vitamin D spray
A few months ago, Full Life, a healthcare company, launched Vitashine D3 Spray. “Let’s face it, not everyone with a Vitamin D deficiency has the time to expose themselves to the morning sun. We have brought this product from UK and currently, it is available on call,” says Varun Khanna, founder of Full Life, adding that their marketing strategy is underway.

“One must use the spray, which contains a dose of 1,000 Internationa Unit (IU), once a day. This product is completely vegetarian as it is sourced from algae. It is a more convenient method than popping a pill, which has a dose of 60,000 IU. The lower dose prevents toxicity. The spray helps bring the levels of the vitamin in your body.”

Some like 33-year-old Shilpa Thakkar vouch for the spray. While she was told to take vitamin d3 injections to popping pills. she decided against it as the high dosage affects the liver. “I took the spray for three to four months,” says Thakkar. “When I was detected with a deficiency, I was advised to expose my body to the morning sun. Frankly, with work and hectic schedules, I didn’t comply. The spray is handy and efficient and my tests show that my levels have improved,” she says.

Orthopaedic injuries
a few years ago, Mumbai-based public relations professional Melanie Fernandes woke up one morning to find she could not move her ring finger. “It went numb. The orthopaedic diagnosed it as a frozen finger caused by constant use of the laptop trackpad. I switched to using a mouse and the condition improved,” Fernandes recalls.But last month, she had spent a few days working several hours a stretch on her computer. The index finger swellen and turned stiff. “It was diagnosed as reactive arthritis, so I rested the finger and took anti-inflammatory medication. Now I have started giving my hands the required rest by stretching at regular intervals,” she says.


Dr Prabhoo Ramchandra, an orthopaedic surgeon with Mukund Hospital in Andheri, says, “Long hours of work and travelling in packed trains and buses often lead to neck and lower back pain. Patients also complain of fatigue. Another worrying trend is that of thumb and wrist injuries, due to overuse of computer and cellphones.” He adds that people today have forgotten the importance of drinking water. “This leads to muscle cramps and dehydration, which often worsens cases of muscular spasmsand pain.”

The solution is simple, he says: drink plenty of water and invest in ergonomic products for specific problems. “Today, there are great products, such as mouse, keyboards, chairs and hand rests, to save your body from occupational and lifestyle hazards,” he concludes.

Eye fatigue
While most of the other disorders cause pain or weakness, eye fatigue is often ignored for years, say doctors, as it usually starts with a twitch. Take the case of Ashok Shah, a 42-year-old businessman, who visited ophthalmologist Dr Deepak Sadarangani at Hinduja Healthcare Surgical in Khar last month. “He complained of dry eyes, a classic symptom of severe computer vision syndrome,” says Dr Sadarangani, adding that it is not just the computer but also the cell phone and the television that gives the eye muscle no time to relax. “With people sleeping fewer hours, the eyes don’t get complete rest,” he adds.

Eye fatigue
Tired eyes can lead to dry eyes and double vision

The window to the rest of your body, the eye is often overstrained, overworked and taken for granted. “While fatigued or tired eyes will not leave you blind, they will leave you with dry eyes, blurry vision, double vision and headache,” says Dr Himanshu Mehta, founder of Vission Eye Centre, Juhu.

Spending too much time in air-conditioned rooms aggravates the dryness. “We can detect diabetes, kidney problems and blood pressure by looking at teh condition of the eye,” says Dr Mehta, adding “Look out of the window at the greens, palm your eyes, sleep well, lubricate the eye if need be, and leave your electronic gadgets aside.” For all the disorders, the good news is that help is also close at hand. Some names in the story have been changed on request 

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