'Every fifth person suffers back pain issues in Pakistan'

Novartis Pharma (Pakistan) Limited organises forum with support of Express Media Group

Adnan Lodhi June 06, 2023


Speakers at a forum, held on World Axial Spondyloarthritis Day, said every fifth person in the country faces back pain issues and "there is a need that we should give awareness to the public about this disease”.

The forum was organised by Novartis Pharma (Pakistan) Limited with the support of Express Media Group.

This forum was held at a local hotel with the collaboration of Novartis Pharma, the Axial Spondyloarthritis International Federation (ASIF), and the Arthritis Care Foundation (ACF), in which medical experts raised awareness about Axial Spondyloarthritis (axSpA).

World AS Day is dedicated to patients with Axial Spondyloarthritis. axSpA is a rheumatic inflammatory disease primarily affecting the lower back and sacroiliac joint, a joint which links the pelvis and lower spine and is responsible to support the weight of the upper body when standing.

The theme of World AS Day this year is moving with axSpA, as movement can improve the mental and physical health of any patient suffering from this disease.


Professor Sumaira Farman Raja, Head Department of Rheumatology at National Defence Hospital, while giving awareness about the disease, said that many people around the world face the issue of back pain in their lives, and people think of various reasons for back pain, including disc problems or pain due to some injury.

"However, this back pain may be due to Axial Spondyloarthritis, which is inflammatory in nature. The pain may appear in other parts of the body, including the leg, arm, neck, or fingers. Most commonly the disease starts at a young age, below the age of 40. The most common signs of axial spondyloarthritis are that the pain occurs at midnight when the person is sleeping and there is morning stiffness when the person wakes which normalizes after 30 minutes during movement and daily routine work, and people usually don't take it seriously. Skin diseases like psoriasis, and inflammation/redness in the eyes, may also occur which are signs of axSpA disease. In our society, there is a concept that this is a male-dominant disease which is incorrect, as females also suffer from this disease and research has proven the percentage is equal to men, so females should not ignore it when back pain and other symptoms appear in the body".

"The problem with this disease is that patients usually visit doctors and rheumatologists late to inquire about their illness, and due to late visits to doctors, there are fewer chances of early treatment to prevent the disease from further damage. The damages due to delayed visits to a specialist are so much that it becomes hard to treat the patient as the joint functions have completely deteriorated. If patients visit doctors timely, then there are maximum chances of recovery. Axial Spondyloarthritis is a genetic disease, and the genes of this disease may be passed down in the family, and it may target anyone at different ages. An important diagnostic technique is MRI, which is also expensive, but an MRI of a specified area should be performed with guidance from an expert. So, one should go for an MRI with the consultation of a specialist. Arthritis Care Foundation is doing its best to educate, diagnose and provide the best possible treatment to the patients”, said Prof Dr Nighat Mir, Consultant Professor of Rheumatology, at the National Defence Hospital and head of Pakistan Arthritis Care Foundation (ACF).

Dr. Muhammad Ahmad Saeed, Consultant and Professor of Rheumatology at Central Park Hospital, said that the treatment of Axial Spondyloarthritis disease is expensive in third-world countries.

"The treatment of this disease is beyond the reach of the common man, and most people cannot afford the expensive treatment and medicines. Lifestyle change and exercise are helpful for this disease, and we can avoid it by changing our lifestyle and adopting the habit of exercise. Swimming is the best exercise in this connection. Dr. Ahmad Saeed said that smoking and obesity are also risk factors to activate the hidden disease as mostly smokers and obese people tend to suffer from this disease".

Ajmal Sattar Malik, Editor of Express Forum, said that Express Media Group always tries to give awareness to the public on diseases where knowledge is limited".

"Axial Spondyloarthritis is an important disease nowadays, as mostly young age people are suffering from this disease and there is a need to make people aware, if the diagnosis is not done in time the disease can limit the mobility of an individual and impair the person to perform daily routine task, worsening the quality of life an individual".

Two International guests Jo Lowe, Project Manager of ASIF, and Joe Davies, Assistant Director of ASIF, were also part of this awareness program.

Axial Spondyloarthritis International Federation is an international patient organization with a vision that aims to create awareness and support patients suffering from axial spondyloarthritis through education.

They shared their experiences and efforts which are adapted worldwide to decrease the delay in diagnosis and improve the quality of life of the patients. A mutual consensus has been developed between ACF and ASIF to support education, and awareness and eradicate the delay of diagnosis in Pakistani patients through joint ventures.





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