Mind the hump

Mind the hump

Speed breakers not only break the speed of traffic, but also the backs of those on the road, writes Dr Rajeev K Sharma.

A  regular fixture of our roads, speed breakers not only slow down traffic at crucial junctures, but sometimes also cause spinal injuries and pain, especially when they are too steep, not laid down according to norms or are driven over by reckless drivers. A number of people report pain in the back after having a rough drive over a speed breaker with the jerk causing a whiplash injury to the neck or tearing a muscle or a ligament. Often, some young and callous motorists tend to ignore the bulged construction and fail to rein in the speed of their vehicle. While this may induce a sense of thrill in them, the consequences may include a severe spine injury that may last a lifetime. 

In a country like India, where a speed breaker is the most recognisable method of controlling speeding vehicles, most of them are constructed without following proper guidelines. Not only are they constructed haphazardly, but often there are no signs forewarning motorists about the presence of speed breakers ahead.

The problem not only prevails with those who drive cars and ride bikes, but also with people travelling in buses, taxis and auto-rickshaws. People suffering from spinal problems such as spondylosis, neck pain, slipped disc etc. find themselves in danger of exacerbating their condition, if a speed breaker jerks their back. In elderly people who suffer from osteoporosis, a heavy jerk can even cause compression fracture of the spine’s vertebral columns.

Unmarked speed breakers cause vertical loading in sitting position that leads to spinal injuries. While such a situation has an immediate effect on elderly people due to their weak bones and soft tissues, in young people, it may induce minor injuries to the back ,which can exacerbate with time and age.

Our spine consists of vertebral columns that are separated from each other by fluid -filled discs that help absorb pressure and jerks to the spine. Excessive pressure or repeated jerks can cause fluid between two vertebrae to squeeze out, making the spine prone to a herniated disc.

Better safe

Here are some precautions you should consider while travelling on the road:

Always wear seat belts as they not only prevent injuries, but also shield the body from the impact of jerks that come with minor collisions or speed breakers.

Be mindful of the location you are driving in. If there is a hospital, school or residential area in the neighbourhood, know that speed breakers must be around.

Minimise speed ahead of a speed breaker. Even if you are in a hurry, don’t risk a jump on the speed breaker.

Consult a doctor immediately if you experience pain or discomfort in the back of the neck.

(The author is senior orthopedic & joint replacement surgeon, Indraprastha
Apollo Hospital, New Delhi)

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