Why young Mumbaikars are rushing to ortho clinics

Why young Mumbaikars are rushing to ortho clinics
Why young Mumbaikars are rushing to ortho clinics
Why are Mumbaikars as young as 30 queueing up at ortho clinics with joint pain?

Make hay while the sun shines carries a literal meaning for Bandra entrepreneur Preet Motwani. She gets out every morning at 8.15 am to soak in an hour of bright sunlight. It wasn't like this nine months ago. The 35-year-old was fighting time to get her eight-year-old ready for school before heading to her interiors store in Andheri.

But a sever stomach infection she contracted in January, that she overcame with a light, nutritious diet and medication, left her weak, irritable and lethargic. "I was experiencing excruciating pain and spasms in my neck, which travelled down my shoulders and spine," says Motwani. This lasted a month before she decided to visit a doctor who suggested she get her Vitamin D3 and B12 levels tested. While her B12 reserves were sufficient, Motwani's Vitamin D level stood at 12.20 ng/ml, way below the normal range of 30 to 100 ng/ml). "The deficiency was responsible for the pain that was a result of weakened bones," she says. Other than the mandatory hour of sunshine, Vitamin D supplements and physiotherapy have seen her through the year.

Age dropping
Mumbai's orthopaedics and physiotherapists have reported a rise in the cases of poor bone healthcompounded by muscle weakness, as in Motwani's case. Orthopaedic surgeon and head of orthopaedics at Seth G S Medical College and KEM Hospital, Dr Pradeep Bhosale, says the situation has worsened in the last five years. "Most female patients also complain of pain in the heels, irritability and short temper," says the doctor, who sees four such cases a week. Across the city in Bandra, physiotherapist Dr Poonam Bajaj treats 30 odd patients a day, teaching them exercises that will rid them of joint and muscle pain. Medically, they use the term osteopenia or the lack of bone density mineral to describe such cases. It's a step before osteoporosis, a condition that refers to the degeneration of bones. The thinning of bones due to ageing is a natural process. Most adults reach their peak bone mass density (BMD) at 30, after which there is a gradual bone mass loss that kicks in. In fact, by middle age, the body reabsorbs existing bone cells faster than new bone cells are made, resulting in minerals, mass, and structure loss, leaving bones weaker. Brittle bones are more susceptible to fractures.

Doctors say, owing to a poor lifestyle most people don't end up reaching their peak BMD at 30. This is why they are noticing more cases of weak bones in patients in their 20s because they haven't built their reserves.

Lack of Vitamin D is the biggest culprit, with orthopaedics calling it India's 'urban epidemic'. Dr Ameet Pispati, consulting orthopaedic surgeon at Jaslok and Bhatia Hospitals, explains, "The bone has a trabecular network. Think of it as a honeycomb. Its main source of constitution are Vitamin D and calcium. They are the lime and cement of the bone's building structure." If a person is deficient in either of these, the network's foundations are affected, leaving him more prone to pain and fracture.

What's wrong? 
Doctors are not ruling out poor posture, sedentary lifestyle, and high impact workouts without warming up as factors, too. Likewise, lack of exercise, high stress, excessive smoking and drinking, a poor diet, an overdose of caffeine and colas (they increase calcium excretion and reduce absorption) and hormonal imbalances are contributors, too.

Women are especially vulnerable since they have a lower peak BMD to begin with. Besides, loss of bone mass tends to speed up as hormonal changes kick in with menopause.

Dr Fixit
The easiest and cheapest remedy, experts will tell you, is to expose yourself to morning sunlight for 40 minutes every day. Playing tennis, jogging, dancing and climbing stairs together with the right diet (see box) helps slow down bone loss. "It easier to prevent bone weakness than treat it. Once bones are weakened, it is a longterm uphill battle," says Dr Pispati.

Feed your bones
Where to get your calcium from 
Dietician and fitness expert Sheela Tanna suggests dairy products (milk, ghee, yoghurt and cheese). Go for eggs, dark green leafy vegetables and soyabean.

Replace the junk food
High sugar and fat intake leads to bone weakening. Since fast foods are deficient in calcium, Vitamin C and zinc, all necessary for bone maintenance. Instead of snacking on chips and farsan, eat fruits like orange, guava and sweet lime, rich Vitamin C. Have khakra and bread or rotis made from whole grains.