Y Magazine

The hard truth about back pain: don’t rely on drugs, scans or quick fixes

Gone are the days you had to just hit the bed and remain there until the pain had subsided. There are better ways to avoid or deal with back pain now, Dr Tariq Amin Sheikh tells Hasan Shaban



It costs a huge amount of money to employees and businesses. People spend a good part of their salary on taking treatment for it and companies suffer heavy financial losses from working days lost due to frequent days off taken by staff suffering from it.

The villain of the piece is our back, the pain is one that most of us experience at some point of our lives and the problem is that the cases are on the increase in Oman.

Age and excess weight are two major risk factors, but there are others, such as poor posture and slouching, which we could avoid if we bother to pay a little attention to our wrong habits. Spending a long time in front of your workstation is one of them. Another is an unsuitable seating position at work or home or in the car.

The bottom line is: don’t ever put your back under unnecessary stress, sitting or standing.

Gone are the days when doctors would advise people to hit the bed and remain there until the pain had subsided.

Better, effective options are available now.

This week we are sipping coffee with an expert in the field who has seen it all during his long medical career.

Meet Dr Tariq Amin Sheikh, senior consultant orthopaedic surgeon at KKT Oman, to learn more about how we could save our back.

There are many causes for back pain but the commonest is poor or wrong posture “which is often termed as ‘mechanical back pain’”, says Dr Tariq Amin.

It is extremely important to have your workstation installed at a comfortable level. That, according to the doctor, is one easy way we could address the issue. “The world is changing. More and more people are spending their days sitting at workstations. In Europe, they are adjusting the workstation to the height of the user.”

Sitting in front of a computer for a long time without taking breaks at regular intervals is another reason. This causes neck pain which leads to back ache. “People have started developing sensors on the computers that detect your posture and notify you if your neck is in a position that might harm the muscles and cause posture problems,” says Dr Tariq Amin.

Another common cause is disk. Disk rupture mostly occurs when an individual does an activity that he/she is not used to, like the sudden lifting of weight.

“Our bodies are not used to high-speed vehicles and sudden jerks cause what we call whiplash that affects our bones, bending the spine and leading to uneven shoulder that cause the pain.”

Some get such pains from birth. The ones born with bent spines have Scoliosis.

Old-age problems are most common among ladies as their bones get weak and collapse, causing compression fractures without any injury.

Another reason for back pain is cancer, especially for people over the age of 50. Many cancers affect the backbone.
“Even kids suffer from what we call ‘bagpack disease’. The way they carry their bags, on one shoulder, is wrong. If a bag is strapped on one side it causes pain on other side,” the doctor cautions.

Smart phones too are responsible for back ache. The neck bends when using the phone causing what is commonly known as text message disease.

Another factor that could trigger back pain is your sleeping posture. “You should never sleep on your tummy, but on your right side with your legs bent or straight. We do not advise sleeping on your left side as your heart is located there, but you can always change this position during your sleep.”

There are other causes like auto immune disorders and skin diseases that can cause joint pain and back pain.

So, how do they go about treating back pain at KKT?

“We diagnose a patient in a process that starts inside the Patient Management Advocate (PMA) room. There, he/she sits with the doctor for 60 minutes to undergo a comprehensive test. We ask about the pain status, the peek pain hours, the level of pain on a scale from 0 to 10.”

They also check the ‘’employment scale”: some mechanical jobs can hurt the spine. “This is why luggage rules are changing and now there is a weight limit for travellers to prevent staff who handle luggage from suffering such issues. Hopefully there will be machines to sort this out soon,” the doctor observes.

“We ask the patients about their tobacco and caffeine intake, the shoes they wear and then we go over the psychological stresses.

“We have a term ‘where is the break, back or brain?’ There are hormones factors to pain and we are very concerned about anxiety illnesses, including sexual disturbances, physical abuse, and even divorce.”

Then comes the general consultation phase, where they decide if a patient is treatable at KKT or not. “We do not treat cancer patient, patients who develop weakness in their limbs or have issues with urine control. We ask them to undergo surgery.”

If the patient is eligible for treatment, he/she is taken to the x-ray room and then to the Report of Finding phase (RoF). “Here, we identify the problem and let them know.”

A patient is treated over a number of sessions, depending on the severity of the issue, age, smoking, drugs intake and, most importantly, whether they have been operated upon or not.

The KKT treatment platform uses sound waves to relieve pain by shifting and restoring the back, shoulders, pelvis and, generally, the entire body while enhancing the health of the spinal discs, ligaments and muscles.

With almost two decades, and millions of dollars in research and development, KKT has become a viable, long-term alternative to many surgical procedures and prolonged use of pain medications.

“KKT International has safely provided over 500,000 treatments and has grown into a medical technology company focused on the development of medical devices, information technologies, and clinical protocols for the treatment of chronic pain in the back and neck as well as joint pain.”