“Life is movement, movement is life”

Dr. Devendra Vartak talks about bones and joints and what we must do to keep them healthy
By Avanika Mote

Dr. Devendra Vartak
Dr. Devendra Vartak

One Wednesday morning, we asked four quick questions to Dr. Devendra Vartak, an acclaimed orthopaedic surgeon from Pune. He agreed to give us 20 minutes of his valuable time meant for his daughter who had a school holiday – a priceless gesture from a man whose time is at a premium. We asked him about his work and how he goes about it, and he spoke about his expertise briefly, which are hip and knee surgery, joint replacement surgery, fixing fractures of the hip and knee, and revision hip and knee surgeries. He also sounded enthusiastic about his newly set up operation theatre at Ameya Clinic in Erandwane.

What was the most difficult case you have come across?

Dr.Vartak: A 20-year old boy from Aurangabad, who was suffering from ankylosing spondylitis, visited me some time ago. Ankylosing spondylitis is a type of arthritis that affects the spine. He was bed-ridden for three years and his body was immobile. His spinal bones had fused together resulting in a rigid spine. The X-ray reports showed that his hips stood at 90 degrees on account of this condition. After the diagnosis, I decided to operate him. A poly-hip replacement surgery was the only hope. His bones had become so fragile that I had to perform the surgery with a feather touch. We also gave him a shot of a hormone that strengthens bones and today, he is functional. He can move with the help of a walking stick. The great thing is, he does not need a wheelchair and has a relatively normal life.

Any other case you recall that was difficult to deal with?

Dr. Vartak: Another lady, who is 35 years old, was diagnosed with Guillain Barre Syndrome, a nervous system disorder that causes weakness in the muscles, loss of reflexes and numbness in the arms and legs. She was on a ventilator as she had breathing issues. Also, she had nerve blocks which had caused ‘foot drop’ – an abnormality caused by the paralysis of muscles of the lower leg. This case was tricky because I didn’t want any artificial fixtures. The only direction I could consider taking was to transfer a tendon to her affected leg muscle through a foot-drop gait surgery. This isn’t something that you get to see everyday and there were some risks involved. However, it worked wonders and my patient has been recovering through various post-surgery physiotherapy sessions.

That is commendable. I cannot imagine anybody going through such muscular conditions. So, how do we take care of our bones and joints without having to take supplements?

Dr.Vartak: Good question. We live sedentary lives these days and hardly make time to exercise. I’ll give you a quick checklist of things to do and not do.

  • Workout.
  • Walk to nearby places, like say the grocery store and so on
  • Take stairs, ditch the elevators.
  • Don’t sit at one spot for long, keep moving. Keep your bones and muscles mobile. Because, life is movement, movement is life.
  • Stretch as much as possible.
  • Monitor your posture, use cushions when the neck is under stress.
  • If you work on a computer, it should be positioned at the eye level and your elbows should be supported. Ergonomics are important.

Thanks, doc. I’m sure most of our readers need these basic tips to protect their bones and joints. On a candid note, what are you doing when you aren’t working?

Dr.Vartak: (smiles) I like to trek and spend time with my family. I like to chat with like-minded people and hang out with friends in my free time.

Dr. Devendra Vartak is an MBBS, MS, DNB. He has been practicing in Pune since 2007. He has a state-of-the-art operating room with laminar flow and in-house physiotherapy department at his clinic in Erandwane.

Straighten your back (pain)

back-pain1Nowadays back pain is most difficult and frustrating problem faced by a large number of people. The problem is referred by different names such as Backache, Low back pain, Lumbar pain, Pain – back. If you are like most people, you will have at least one backache in your life.

Our back is very complex structure made of bones, nerves and joints. It is very difficult to pinpoint to cause of pain.

Back pain or discomfort can happen anywhere in your back; most common place or the most common area affected is your low back. Our Low back supports most of our body’s weight. Low back pain may be short-term (lasting less than one month) or long-term (lasting longer than three months).

Pain felt in your lower back may come from the spine, muscles, nerves, or other structures in that region. It may also radiate from other areas like your mid or upper back, a hernia in the groin, or a problem in the testicles or ovaries. There are different variety of symptoms you may feel if your back hurts. You may feel burning sensation or tingling or you also may experience weakness in your legs or feet.

Causes of back pain

With the changing lifestyle back pain is becoming a serious problem. It is becoming more common in IT/ITES employees who have to sit for hours at a stretch. Common back pain causes include:

  1. Carrying, pushing, pulling or lifting incorrectly.
  2. Riding a two wheeler for long distances/Driving for long time or sitting improperly in car for long time
  3. Sudden Twisting
  4. Bending for a long period of time.
  5. Having poor sitting posture.

Sudden back pain without any reason are usually sign of muscle tear, ligament or disc problem.

There may be other, more serious underlying causes of your back pain, but these are rare.

They include: Fracture, Osteoporosis, slipped disc, Spinal stenosis, etc.


Pay Attention

If you experience any of the following symptoms, then see your GP as early as possible

Swelling on your back or Redness

Pain down your legs and below your knees

Numbness or weakness in one or both legs or around your buttocks

Constant pain, particularly at night

Pain that’s worsening and spreading up your spine.

These symptoms are known as red flags. It’s important to seek medical help for these symptoms to ensure you don’t have a more serious, underlying cause for your back pain.

Overcome back pain

A change is lifestyle is a must to overcome back pain. A little physical movements every now and then during the day can go a long way in keeping the back pain away. A few other good practices that can help in avoiding the back pain are:

Stretch gently and exercise your back muscles

Sit straight in a chair (avoid wrong posture)

Avoid sitting in one place for more than 30 minutes. Take a 30 seconds walk every 30 minutes.

If you are suffering from back pain, avoid lifting heavy things

Sleep straight on your back and as far as possible sleep on a hard bed or on the floor.

Adjust your sitting place, the computer screen according to your convenience so you don’t have to bend forward to see your computer monitor or reach your mouse.

Avoid riding long distances on two-wheeler

Back pain will soon reach an epidemic proportion but a little knowledge and small changes can help you family to avoid it.


Sameer Patel

Sameer, a fun loving individual, works as a Software Engineer in savetime. An engineering graduate from Pune University,   Sameer likes to take up complex coding scenarios and solve them with his full dedication. He enjoys his work as much as he enjoys his free time chit chatting with friends. Sameer loves listening to fusion music and his favorite pass time is watching action packed Hollywood movies with a bag full of pop corn in his hand.