Start Managing your Sports Injury Related Back Pain Today
With every grimace, fans and golf enthusiasts grimaced with him. Those who felt the pain along with Woods the most were athletes who also suffered from back issues.
Some feel an old sports injury for decades after it's been "taken care of." Sometimes it's sharp and at other times it's dull. But it's always there.
If someone is suffering from back pain, surgery isn't the only answer. There are other alternatives to relieve sports injury back pain, regardless of how old the injury is.
This article explains the different causes of back pain in athletes and ways to treat it, even if it's been years since the injury happened.
Spinal Anatomy and Back Pain
Before understanding a lower back sports injury, it's important to explain the different terms relating to spinal anatomy. Bones, ligaments and tendons, muscles, and nerves make up the back.
It's broken up into four areas which each have their own unique features.
Cervical Spine (Neck)
This part of the spine consists of seven vertebrae, marked C1-C7. The top two vertebrae are unique as the first segment (C1 or the atlas) is a ring without a vertebral body. The second vertebrae (C2 or the axis) acts as a post the first vertebrae sits in.
The next five, designated C3-C7, have three joints each. In general, neck pain occurs from a muscle, ligament or tendon sprain or strain.
Thoracic Spine (Upper Back)
Twelve vertebrae (T1-12) make up the thoracic spine. This section of the upper back acts as a cage to protect vital organs like the heart and lungs. It offers little movement as its function is to provide stability and structural support.
Because the thoracic spine isn't designed to move, there are few injuries that occur here. But injuries to the shoulders can cause discomfort.
Lumbar Spine (Lower Back)
The lumbar is prone to injury due to its nature. The lumbar area has more motion than the rest of the spine. It also carries the weight of the upper body, which puts a lot of pressure on it at all times.
The lumbar spine consists of five vertebrae (L1-5) which are the largest of the entire spine. L3-L4 and L4-L5 get the most wear and tear type injuries, as they have the most motion.
L4-L5 and L5-S1 are the lowest vertebrae. They take the most strain and herniate the most. This is the lower back pain that feels tingly or numb.
Sacral Region (Bottom of the Spine)
The lowest part of the spine which makes up the back of the pelvis is the sacral region. This is a triangular bone broken into five segments (S1-S5) that connects the spine to the lower part of the body. The tailbone (coccyx) is at the bottom.
Coccydynia is tailbone pain which affects more women than men.
Twenty-three discs fit between vertebrae, acting as cushions and shock absorbers. Discs are degenerative, which means they break down over time. This can be painful or it can cause pain as the vertebrae start rubbing together.
Back Pain in Athletes
There are three categories used to describe back pain:
Eighty-percent of back pain is acute. This means it may be severe, but short-lived, lasting one to seven days. In most cases, this describes the pain felt from a lower back sports injury.
Ten to 20% of back pain sufferers experience subacute back pain. This back pain lasts seven days to seven weeks. Sometimes the pain is mild while at other times it's severe.
Back pain that lasts longer than three months is chronic. Five to 10% of people have chronic back pain.
About 5-10% of sports injuries occur in the lower back or lumbar area. These injuries are the result of either major trauma or a series of microtraumas. Microtraumas are minor injuries like small tears or stresses.
There are three most common types of back injuries experienced by athletes.
Muscular Strains and Ligament Sprains
While they can be severe, strains and sprains are typically microtraumas. They're caused by overuse, improper technique or poor conditioning. They're sometimes caused by direct trauma.
An injured athlete self-polices or limits him or herself according to the amount of pain and discomfort they have.
Spondylolysis and Spondylolisthesis
Spondylolysis is a stress fracture or crack in a vertebra. Sometimes, the vertebra is so weakened by the fracture it starts to slip, causing spondylolisthesis.
You can have spondylolysis without having spondylolisthesis and vice versa.
Athletes who twist or hyperextend their back, like gymnasts or golfers, suffer from spondylolysis and spondylolisthesis. It's often misdiagnosed as a sprain or strain.
Herniated discs are the least common sports-related back injury. When the outer layer of a disc tears, like from high-impact trauma, the inner part of the disc can protrude or herniate.
How to Relieve Lower Back Pain From a Sports Injury
Most lower back pain injuries get treated by conservative methods. This means by physical therapy, medication, or exercise. Surgery is the last option.
Stretching muscles in the glutes, quads, and hamstrings can take pressure off the lower back, and start relieving pain.
Staying active while suffering from acute lower back pain helps relieve tension. Even two 15-minute sessions consisting of light movement makes a big difference. Applying heat relieves tight muscles as well.
Strengthening the core using proper form and technique will help mobilize your back. This keeps it from being "shocked" from sudden movement like a golf swing or slipping while jogging.
Find Your Solution For Sports Injury Back Pain
The human back is an integral part of our daily lives. Taking care of it at all times will lead to a happy and active life. Sometimes, injuries aren't preventable and can last years.
If you're suffering from sports injury back pain, it can feel like there's no relief. We've shown you that there is. The next step is doing something to prevent further injury from occurring.