Sports injuries and back or neck pain

Sports injuries can be painful, both physically and emotionally. Many times, those who play sports professionally or for scholarships return to activity before healing has satisfactorily progressed due to internal and external pressures. However, this early return to strenuous activity often results in re-injury, and lifelong disability can occur as a result of repetitive injury.

Many sports, especially ones that involve repetitive motion or strain to the same muscles and bones, may result in back injuries. Common sports injuries to the back include sprains and strains, fractures, pinched nerves, spondylolysis and herniated (prolapsed) discs. Not only are back injuries extremely painful, but also they may permanently limit some activities. Proper treatment of injuries reduces total loss of time away from sports and more importantly, prevents permanent dysfunction.

Preventing sports injuries

The following strategies help prevent sports injuries to your neck and back:

  • Stretch thoroughly and carefully before participating. Be sure not to overextend — if your stretches cause you pain, stop immediately.
  • Always begin with a warm up that consists of easy movement. The goal is to slowly increase the flow of blood (and by extension, oxygen and nutrients) to your neck and back.
  • If your sport requires specialized movement (such as swinging a bat or a golf club), make sure to warm up the muscles involved. Start with some gentle repetitions of the motions involved before maximal performance.
  • Wear any required protective gear, especially in contact sports.
  • Do not play through the pain. If you feel the start of an injury, stop playing and rest before the injury can become worse.

Proper care of sports injuries

If you do injure your back while playing sports, take immediate steps to minimize the damage:

  • See a physician to find out the extent of the injury. Do this immediately for severe injuries; for minor injuries, a short resting and observation period is appropriate.
  • Rest the injury, and do not continue to play again before the injury resolves.
  • Use ice and heat to minimize inflammation, reduce swelling and relieve pain. Over-the-counter or prescription medications may also help with pain relief and reducing swelling and inflammation.
  • After consulting a physician, exercise to strengthen your core muscles. These muscles help stabilize and protect the spine. They help to prevent injuries and help minimize injuries.
  • Reintroduce activity gradually. Start with walking or conditioning exercises before returning to your full training routine.

Conservative, nonsurgical treatments such as rest and pain medication often heal the injury after a few weeks or months, although severe sports injuries may require surgery. If pain from sports injuries or any other spinal conditions is limiting your activities, contact Laser Spine Institute for more information on how our minimally invasive spine surgery can help you find relief. Our minimally invasive outpatient procedures are often the clinically appropriate first choice and provide many advantages versus open neck or back surgery.