Did you know that athletes are at greater risk of suffering from low back pain due to physical activity? Whether the sport is skiing, basketball, football, gymnastics, soccer, running, golf or tennis, the spine undergoes a lot of twisting, turning and absorption of pressure from bodily impact.
Strenuous activity puts stress on the back that can cause injury to even the finest and most fit athletes. It’s estimated that five to ten percent of all athletic injuries are related to the lower spine. Many cases of low back pain in athletes can be traced to a specific event or trauma; others are brought about by repetitive minor injuries.
In this blog, we’ll discuss the most common causes for low back pain in athletes, including back strain, spondylolysis, spondylolisthesis and herniated discs.
The medical term used to describe common back strain is musculoligamentous strain. This term refers to all injuries of the lower spine’s soft tissue. Soft tissues are the muscles, nerves, ligaments, tendons and blood vessels around the spine.
Strains are probably the most common types of sports injuries. Back strains are diagnosed by exclusion, which means the diagnosis is offered after all other causes of pain are ruled out. These injuries are usually self-limiting. In other words they do not continue to spread and get worse and generally heal in time.
Spondylolysis and Spondylolisthesis
A crack in the bony ring of the spinal column is called spondylolysis. If the crack occurs on both sides, the spine is free to slip forward, which is a condition called spondylolisthesis. While there is no definitive cause of spondylolysis, most physicians agree that the bone defect appears in children mainly due to sports activities that put repeated stress on the pars interarticularis. Spondylolysis often appears in younger and older adults as the result of excessive stresses on the spine, eventually causing a stress fracture.
A herniated disc occurs when pressure to a disc’s outer fibers (annulus) is so great that it rips, and the nucleus ruptures out of its normal space. If it rips near the spinal canal, the bulging disc can push out of its space and into the spinal canal, placing inappropriate pressure on the spinal cord and nerve roots.
If a disc bulges substantially, or fragments into pieces that lie in the canal, then irritation of the nerves can be severe. The compression to the nerves caused by herniation can lead to feelings of numbness, pain, a change in reflexes, and tingling in the arms or legs.
Low Back Pain Treatment
There are a number of treatment options available for individuals suffering from a slipped disc. The most common treatment methods include spinal decompression therapy, weighted and un-weighted rehabilitation, pain management injections and electrotherapy.
Spinal decompression therapy works through a series of 15 one-minute alternating decompression and relaxation cycles with a total treatment time of 30 minutes. During the decompression phase, the pressure in the disc is reduced and a vacuum-type effect is produced on the nucleus pulposus (the jelly-like substance in the middle of the spinal disc). At the same time, essential nutrients are diffused into the disc, promoting healing and minimizing inflammation.
If you are suffering from low back pain or sports-related aches and pains, Dynamic Health provides sports performance treatments and spinal decompression therapy. We offer new client appointments within one to three days, and we are one of the only pain management clinics to provide imaging-guided injections without a long wait.