When participating in just about any sport, especially those involving contact or repetitive movements, there is a risk of twisting, bending, spraining, stretching, or straining something within your back area. When precautions are taken, sports-related exercise can be a good way to keep muscles strong and flexible and maintain your overall health. Understanding common sports injuries linked to back pain can also help you know when to seek assistance from a doctor or specialist if you experience sudden pain or discomfort that develops later.
Lower Back Pain
Most sports injuries involve the lower back since this is the part of the spine most affected by motion and most vulnerable to direct or indirect injury. Low back pain can result from sports involving repetitive motions, such as running, jogging, or contact sports like football and soccer. Hyper-extension of the lower back with twisting or bending movements from sports such as golf or tennis can place stress on facet joints and compress discs in the lumbar (lower) spine.
Upper Back Pain
Tennis, golf, skiing, and swimming are some of the sports that may contribute to pain in the thoracic spine, the mid-section of your spine around your rib cage. Sports injuries are less likely to involve this part of the back since thick muscles and ribs provide protection. A severe impact, however, can still affect discs and joints along this part of the spine, especially if you sustain a rib fracture. The upper back can also be affected by weight training exercises that involve torso rotations.
Preventing Sports-Related Back Pain
Wearing protective gear while playing contact sports can help minimize the risk of sustaining the full brunt of an impact. Warm-up exercises prior to anything involving running or stretching increases the flexibility of muscles and ligaments supporting your spine. For sports that involve repetitive motions, maintaining proper posture as much as possible and using equipment that's properly adjusted to provide some extra support and comfort may help minimize the risk of experiencing back pain.
Should you experience a hard hit or fall, take a timeout and get some rest or apply ice or heat. If these remedies fail to provide relief or your pain gets progressively worse or lasts more than a day or two, check with your doctor. If you're not responding well to initial treatment, which usually includes anti-inflammatory and pain medications, you may be referred to a specialist for further evaluation, diagnosis, and treatment.