Dubai: The increasing rate of spinal problems in the UAE, even among teenagers, is linked to the lack of exercise and “wrong style of living,” a top spinal surgeon said on the sidelines of the 5th Global Spine Congress (GSC) and the 5th World Forum for Spine Research (WFSR) on Thursday.
Organised by the OASpine, Switzerland, the three-day event began on Thursday at the Grand Hyatt Hotel, Dubai, and concludes on April 16.
Dr Imad Hashim, consultant neurosurgeon, City Hospital, Dubai, said that around 85 per cent of the population worldwide suffers from back pain, and in the UAE, the escalation of spinal problems is because of people’s sedentary lifestyle and incorrect sitting posture at the office or when using gadgets. Dr Hashim is also the local chair of the organising committee of the Global Spine Congress.
“The top two spinal disorders in the UAE are degenerative spinal problems and spinal cord trauma (which occurs mostly due to accidents). What we [surgeons] commonly deal with is the degenerative process. People here do not exercise as much as people in other countries. They do not even walk because they are always using their cars. They also do not maintain a healthy weight through diet and exercise.”
While all office workers today use desktop computers, only 10 to 20 per cent of them actually sit properly while working at them, said Dr Hashim. “At home, everyone spends hours using gadgets with their neck down, and this is making them prone to long-term back and neck injuries.”
“Spinal injuries are occuring in the UAE in people as young as teenagers. I operated on a 15-year-old girl with a lumbar disk and that was the youngest patient I had seen.”
He said 20 to 30 per cent of his patients with back and neck pain are under the age of 30, blaming the problem on the way they sit through hours of work and suffer due to lack of movement throughout the day. “I see about 20 patients per day, and 15 of them have serious neck or back problems.”
Dr Hashim also highlighted a common spinal problem with the older population in the UAE relating to osteoporosis. Spinal cord trauma, another common issue, “mainly happens because of traffic accidents or household and workplace accidents,” he said.
There are many treatment options for spinal injuries, said Dr Hashim. “The specialty is rapidly progressing, so there are always alternatives. There are the usual treatments with the physiotherapy, acupuncture, and chiropractic as well as different types of surgery, implants and biomaterials. When it comes to stem cells, there are no real breakthroughs to treat the nervous system,” he said.
Dr Hashim recommended that people in the UAE pay attention to their posture at work and when using devices to maintain a healthy spine and optimum muscle balance. Regular exercise, he said, is also one of the best ways to protect against back and neck injuries.