Sports injuries and back pain

Exercise is an important part of a healthy lifestyle, and sports are one approach many people choose to get their exercise. For people with back pain, sports can still be an option if they pay attention to their actions. For others, knowing the type of strain sports place on the back may help prevent a back injury.

Up to 20 per cent of all injuries that occur in sports involve the lower back or neck. Sports that use repetitive impact (e.g., running) or weight loading at the end of a range-of-motion (e.g., weightlifting) commonly cause damage to the lumbar spine (lower back).

Sports that involve contact (e.g., football) place the cervical spine (neck) at risk of injury. The thoracic spine (mid portion of the spine at the level of the rib cage) is less likely to be injured in sports because it is supported by the rib cage.

For every sport, a thorough warm-up should be completed before starting to play. The warm-up will be specific to the muscles used in that sport and the actions performed during the sport.

Increase circulation gradually by doing some easy movements such as walking. Stretch the lower and upper back and related muscles, including hamstrings and quadriceps. Start slowly with the sport specific movements (e.g. swing the golf club, serve the ball).

In Cayman, the most common sports injuries involve golf and running. Luckily, there are professionals and instructors in both of these sports in Cayman who are willing to share their expertise with you. They can teach you proper form or help you develop the techniques you already have.

There are almost as many ways to hurt your back playing golf as there are ways to have a bad swing. The full golf swing (backswing and follow-through) rotates the spine with great force and little control, which places a great deal of pressure on the joints and discs.

Further, the lumbar spine muscles are forced to strain to help provide the strength needed for the golf swing.

Finally, the repetitive bending to pick up the golf bag can lead to injury.

There are strategies we can develop to prevent low back injuries from golf. The most important step is to learn proper form and posture for playing golf. Do consider hiring a golf professional who can explain postures and techniques that reduce back strain. Also, choose a golf bag with a built in stand and dual strap.

Running is also a very common cause of low back pain. While running, the back muscles work to keep the body upright and in good posture during the duration of the run. Joints and discs are jarred and compressed by every stride. If there is a foot pronation fault (arch collapse leading to leg rotation), the effects will be magnified while running.

We can take precautions to minimize the damage caused by running. Use of top quality supportive running shoes is an absolute must.

Choose to run on softer surfaces such as grass or a padded track (the beach is often not level enough to be practical). Do more frequent but shorter runs as opposed to marathon running.

Use form that reduces the ‘up and down’ motion and focuses on forward motion while running; lead with the chest, keep the head tall and balanced over the chest. Also, maintain strong abdominal muscles to help stabilize the lower back while running.

Your chiropractor will be able to advise you on how to continue your sport of choice while minimizing the damage to your back and the rest of your body.

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