Dubai expert warns of treadmill dangers
Dubai, June 6, 2011
A Dubai-based neurologist has warned of the dangers of exercising on popular exercise machines such as treadmills after receiving a spate of referrals into his clinic.
The patients, who had been instructed by their doctors to increase walking as a treatment for their low back pain, had started using the treadmills in a bid to comply, only to experience a worsening of their discomfort.
“Treadmills are without doubt a healthy way for most people to exercise, but they can cause problems for those people who suffer low back pain," said Dr Amin Al Shawabkeh, a specialist neurologist at Medcare Hospital, which is managed by Eurohealth Systems located in the DHCC.
"This is because the body has to adopt an unnatural gait in order to balance correctly when using them," he stated.
“This biodynamically unhealthy posture results from the treadmill setting the pace for the user and although one can adjust the speed of the motor and belt, the body is still forced from step to step into working at a rate that's not relaxed and can cause strain,” he explained.
The specialist pointed out that many are unaware that these popular machines found in every gym and health club can in fact exacerbate chronic back pain, as they force an unnatural walking posture onto users.
“In addition to this, a regular walking posture allows the shocks from the impact of the feet to dissipate throughout the body, whereas the treadmill posture channels harmful vibrations directly to the affected area of the spine,” he continued.
Dr Shawabkeh, who treats chronic back pain as a part of his clinical practice at Medcare Hospital, advocates regular walking as being good for back pain alleviation.
He agrees that the weather conditions at this time of year make this activity impractical outdoors and says individuals suffering should instead focus on another ideal form of exercise instead; swimming.
“We are now entering the time of year when normal walking outdoors is extremely difficult,” he said.
“There are indoor walking programmes that are offered in malls here, which are beneficial, but I would recommend swimming as the best form of exercise for back pain."
"Swimming allows the body a full range of movement against gentle resistance which tones all body muscles, especially the ancillary muscles that work to support the back. It is an ideal form of exercise for those with or without back pain,” he added.
Dr Shawabkeh explained how the management of low back pain has now entered a new paradigm, with a procedure being used that is both a diagnostic tool and a mode of treatment.
Anyone presenting with back pain of more than two weeks duration, he says, should undergo a ‘facet joint block,’ of which there are two types.
The first is an injection of steroids into the affected area that will provide pain relief for six months to one year, the second is radio frequency ablation of the nerve carrying the pain impulse, which has a longer pain relief result of up to three years.
Both techniques can be performed under a local anaesthetic in less than one hour, with the patient only needing to rest for a couple of hours before being up and about again.
“The facet joint block protocol is the first choice of treatment, as it offers instant pain relief and a return to normal functioning after a short rest,” he said. “It also allows us to determine exactly the cause of the pain and this is an invaluable tool for ongoing management of the condition,” he added.
Dr Shawabkeh also has general advice for anyone experiencing low back pain. "Use more of support cushions to prevent slouching, both at work and when driving."
According to him, the number of people suffering the disorder are particularly in the 18-35 age group.
“I am seeing over 30-40 patients a month with low back pain – a greater number than I ever used to and many of these are relatively young patients,” he said.
“To minimise strain on the back it is important to use orthopaedic chair cushions that prevent slouching. In fact, it is an incorrect driving posture that is one of the biggest causes of the epidemic of back pain I am currently seeing," he noted.
"It is also important to maintain high levels of water intake, especially in the summer months, as dehydration in the discs and joints of the back can worsen pain,” he added.-TradeArabia News Service