Oh, my aching back

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Oh! My aching back was the topic at the Sunday, July 15 meeting of the Pattaya City Expats Club.  The speaker was Dr. Tawan Chitchulanon, M.D., Assistant Hospital Director at Bangkok Hospital Pattaya (BHP). Dr. Tawan received his medical degree in 1996 and completed his orthopedic residency in Bangkok.  He also spent time in the USA (Minnesota) for his Spine Fellowship. In addition to Dr. Tawan’s excellent presentation, BHP also provided a nurse to give free blood pressure checks to members and guests.

Dr. Tawan started by pointing out that 80% of all people experience back pain; in the USA, it is the number 5 reason for visiting a doctor and the number 1 reason for a work related disability.

Immediate Past Chairman Michel de Goumois announces the members dinner to be held this month at the Purple Space Monkey in Jomtien.Immediate Past Chairman Michel de Goumois announces the members dinner to be held this month at the Purple Space Monkey in Jomtien.

He then described the different sources of back pain. It can be visceral from organs such as the kidneys, arteries, lungs, or stomach. The organ ailments that can cause back pain are prostatitis (in men), endometriosis (in women), kidney stones, aortic aneurism, or gastrointestinal problems such as ulcers. However, visceral sources cause only about 2% of back pain problems.  Another 1% is from non-mechanical sources such as tumors and inflammation.  Whereas, 97% is the result of mechanical sources with muscle strain representing 70%.  The remainder of mechanical sources relates mostly to the spine – being degenerative spinal disease or disc disease.

He then displayed several pictures and diagrams showing the various types of spinal disease and described how these spinal diseases affect the nerves and cause back pain.  The elderly are especially susceptible to back pain from spinal problems.  Dr. Tawan pointed out the various symptoms including the many kinds of pain (throbbing, sharp, dull, etc.) and that it can also include leg pain in addition to back pain.  It can also cause numbness or weakness in the legs and/or bladder and bowel dysfunction.

Dr. Tawan Chitchulanon, M.D., Assistant Hospital Director at Bangkok Hospital Pattaya (BHP), is the spine specialist with BHP.Dr. Tawan Chitchulanon, M.D., Assistant Hospital Director at Bangkok Hospital Pattaya (BHP), is the spine specialist with BHP.

He explained the conditions that result in these symptoms including: (1) spinal stenosis, (2) spine instability from trauma or fracture, (3) facet (joint) arthritis, (4) scoliosis (lateral curvature of the spine), and (5) osteoporosis (porous bone that is more susceptible to fracture).

Dr. Tawan then explained that people with jobs that require frequent bending and lifting or people who are overweight or those that do not get enough exercise, and even smokers are most at risk for spinal problems.  Further, that treatment can vary from conservative methods (such as medicine, physical therapy, etc.) to operative methods (when conservative methods do not bring relief or symptoms severely impact daily living).  He described the various surgical techniques that are available depending on the type of spinal problem. Some are minimally invasive and others require major surgery.

In conclusion, Dr. Tawan also explained the benefits of cryotherapy, which involves using extremely low temperatures.  This type of therapy is available at Bangkok Hospital Pattaya in their Ice Lab.  There are three chambers that subject the body to different temperature levels, minus 10 degrees Celsius, minus 60 degrees Celsius, and minus 110 degrees Celsius.  Cryotherapy can relieve pain, reduce inflammation, provide edema reduction, and muscle relaxation.  Cryotherapy takes multiple treatments to be effective.

Dr Tawan, fellow staff of BHP, and board members of PCEC pose for a photo after Dr Tawan’s talk.Dr Tawan, fellow staff of BHP, and board members of PCEC pose for a photo after Dr Tawan’s talk.

After Dr. Tawan answered several questions from the audience, Master of Ceremonies Roy Albiston  updated everyone on upcoming events and called on Lawrie McLoughlin to conduct the always interesting and lively Open Forum where questions are asked and answered about expat living in Thailand; Pattaya in particular.

Read more about the Club’s activities on their website at www.pattayacityexpatsclub.com.