By Mario McKellop
Back injuries are a major issue in the United States. According to the American Chiropractic Association, lower back pain is the leading cause of disability worldwide, afflicts more than 150 million Americans annually and is responsible for more than $50 billion in medical bills every year. Notably, the ACA reports that the majority of lumbar pain is mechanical in nature. That is to say, it is caused by unusual strain or stress, not disease.
Common Causes of Back Injury
Back injuries can be caused in a number of mundane and dynamic ways. Factors like poor posture, psychological stress and obesity can also contribute to lumbar pain. However, it’s also common for people who lead active lifestyles to incur back injuries while running, lifting weights or participating in a host of recreational activities. And as every weekend warrior knows, it’s also not uncommon to come away from a vigorous ball game with a pained middle or lower back.
Common Types of Back Pain & Injuries
Herniated Disc: After enduring a sports-related back injury, sufferers might find themselves dealing with a variety of different conditions. One of the most common is a herniated disc. This refers an injury where the rings of tissue separating the bones that make up the spine are dislocated, ruptured or destroyed. This can cause sufferers to experience significant back and neck pain, muscle spasms and numbness. Herniated discs are often caused by lifting heavy objects and or a traumatic injury as the result of being hit or falling.
Piriformis Syndrome: Another common cause of back pain in athletes is piriformis syndrome. It’s a condition wherein the piriformis muscle, located in the posterior, presses on the sciatic nerve. The symptoms include acute pain throughout lower back and legs, reduced range of motion and increased tenderness in the affected region. Piriformis syndrome is most commonly caused by trauma, overly tense hip muscles, overuse of the glutes and poor body mechanics.
Spondylolisthesis: Spondylolisthesis is another condition that afflicts people who make sports a big part of their lives. This condition is caused by one of the bones in the lower spine slipping out of place. Its symptoms include tightness in the hamstrings as well as radiating pain and soreness throughout the lower back, thighs and buttocks. Spondylolisthesis commonly affects those who frequently engage in activities that involve a lot of twisting and hyperextension of the spine.
Preventing Back Pain & Injury
Although you should consult a qualified physician if you’re experiencing chronic back pain, there are some simple things you can do to prevent back pain. For one thing, you should make back and abdominal exercises a part of your regular workout routine. Keeping your core strong and flexible is essential in preventing against serious back injury. It’s also important to regularly replace your shoes, as low-heeled sneakers can result in lower back pain. And if your job requires you to sit for extended periods of time, you should make a point to get up, move around and give your body a thorough stretching every hour.
To learn more about back injuries, check out to the latest episode of Inside Sports Medicine with Dr. Jeff Pierce. If you’re experiencing sports related back pain, the experts at the Michigan Sports & Spine Center can help resolve your pain.