Two-wheelers constitute majority of the vehicle population on Indian roads. The ease of manoeuvring, fuel efficiency, low price and a style quotient are some of the reasons youngsters prefer them over low-priced cars or the public transport. However, all this comes at a price. The design of most 2-wheelers available in India, today, is not inherently aimed at the comfort and convenience of the rider. As a result, increasingly, youngsters are reporting pain in the back; lower back, neck, shoulders, legs and wrists.
Wrong Postures And Their Consequences
The human skeleton is a framework of bones that are connected to and supported by the spinal cord at the centre. Needless to say, the spinal cord takes a lot of load all through the day, through our various activities. Wrong postures or abuse of any part of the body reflect on the spine sooner or later. If these postural errors are not corrected, over time, they can lead to severe skeleto-muscular ailments or permanent deformity in some part of the body.
Some of the wrong postures and their consequences:
The head is one of the heaviest organs in the human body. Bearing the weight of the head and the helmet are already a burden on the neck. Further, wrong postures such as craning the head and neck to look around the traffic or to support a mobile and talk while riding, adds to the strain suffered by the neck. This leads to recurring neck pain.
Holding or carrying an object ideally requires the weight to be distributed evenly between the hands, shoulders and back. This requires the object to be close to the body and held roughly at the chest height. However, most 2-wheelers have the handle at the navel level. This makes the rider stretch the back thereby creating an unhealthy curvature in the back. The problem is compounded when the rider is taller or shorter than the average, in which case he/she tends to stoop even more.
- Upper Back: The back should be kept straight as far as possible throughout the day. This ensures the load is distributed between the upper back, lower back, hips and legs. However, many 2-wheelers have a sunken front seat and upraised back seat. This makes the rider stoop to grip the handles. Further, many youngsters have the habit of carrying a bag strapped behind. Both these factors add to the weight on the shoulders and upper back. In the long run, this can result in upper back pain, spondylosis and frozen shoulder.
A poor suspension system or damaged shock absorbers mean the bike and the rider are bearing the brunt of vibrations during the ride. The vertebrae in the lower back and the discs below them are taking the shock every time. In the process, they get damaged over time leading to lower back pain and slipped disc in some cases.
Some riders find it difficult or painful to raise their arms once they stop the ride. This is because the tendons in the shoulders may have become inflamed, a condition known as tendonitis. This can happen from taking long rides without a break.
The carpal tunnel is a chain of bones and ligaments near the wrist. When the rider is constantly gripping the handle or pulling the clutch and brakes, this can irritate the tendons around the carpal tunnel and cause swelling or scarring of the tissues there. The tighter the grip or stronger the pull exerted, the more is the damage.
Bumpy roads and potholes cause a lot of vibration to the rider. In addition to the damage caused to the lower back, such vibration can hurt the extremities of the fingers. The fingers go numb or white due to the lack of blood supply, and this condition is called ‘white fingers’.
Knees and Joints:
Riders who like to over-speed and weave through the traffic tend to bend their knees at awkward angles. This causes wear and tear of the cartilage in the knee joint. This can cause a recurring knee pain in riders. In worse cases, surgery is the only option to treat the condition.
An increase in body heat from taking long rides, as well as heat from the bike’s engine, can cause varicose veins in the legs. So also, sitting for a long time on the bike can cause numbness in the legs and a condition known as sciatica.
Addressing The Issue
Addressing health issues of a 2-wheeler rider due to the wrong posture requires an expert. Consult a Spine specialist at a reputed hospital. He/she will assess your age, your family history of fractures and bone health, factor the time spent by you riding continuously, the nature of the route, and accordingly recommend dos and don’ts for you. Depending on the extent of the problem, you may also require physiotherapy and a regimen of exercises and yoga. Finally, a dietician may recommend a diet plan to keep your weight in check.- Dr. G Balamurali is a Senior Consultant – Spine and Brain Surgeon, Kauvery Hospital, Chennai