Spine injury can occur as a result of trauma, wear or damage to the muscles, bones or other tissues that make up the back. Some of the most frequent types of spine injury are strains and sprains, fractured vertebrae and herniated discs. The lower back or lumbar area is a common site for a spine injury and back pain to occur. This area is prone to injury and pain due to the amount of body weight it bears on a regular basis and because it is flexible. In the United States, 50-70% of the general population may be affected by lower-back pain.
The spine consists of 26 bones that are known as vertebrae. These bony discs protect the spinal cord and they also allow you to bend and stand upright. A spine injury can result in a change in the structure of your spine or it can injure the vertebrae and the tissues that surround them. Spine injury includes:
- Medical conditions like scoliosis and ankylosing spondylitis
- Conditions that are due to aging, such as herniated intervertebral discs and spinal stenosis
Diseases of the spine can cause pain and spine injury if the bone puts pressure on the spinal cord or on the spinal nerves. Spinal injuries due to diseases can also limit or impair movement. The treatment for spinal injury depends on the cause and may include surgery or a back brace.
Back injury and sports
Getting exercise and staying active can help reduce your overall risk of a spine injury and back pain, and it can also put fun into your life and increase your sense of well being.
Almost every sporting activity puts you at some risk for spine injury, so it’s vital to keep your ligaments and spine that help to support your vertebrae strong and flexible. When your spine is healthy, you can prevent spine injury associated with sports.
Core strengthening is a way of getting your back and abdominal muscles to the point that they can support your spine. You can ask your physician or a physical therapist about exercises to strengthen your core.
If you’ve injured your back or suffered a spine injury, talk to your doctor about staying safe when you start to participate in sports again.
Riding a bicycle helps strengthen your leg muscles, but it doesn’t help the muscles around your spine very much. If you bend forward on a bicycle and arch the upper back while pedaling, you can strain your neck and back muscles. Riding a mountain bike on the rough and uneven ground can cause jarring and jerking of your vertebrae.
To avoid spine injury while biking:
- Make sure your bike fits you. The staff at a good bicycle store or shop can help you find a bicycle that fits your body.
- Avoid mountain biking to reduce your chance of a spine injury
- Don’t just push down when pedaling, pull up on the pedals, too
- Biking gloves may help you gain more control of the bike and decrease jarring; a handlebar cover may help also
- Install shock absorbers on the front wheel of the bike to decrease your risk of spine injury
- To reduce pressure on your neck and lower back and decrease the risk of spine injury, choose a more upright seating position
- For the least amount of back stress, choose a recumbent bicycle
This sport can cause spine injury, especially in people over the age of 40 due to degenerative changes in the spinal discs.
To prevent spine injury when lifting weights:
- Warm up your muscles with aerobic exercise for at least 15 minutes before lifting
- To reduce the risk of spine injury, avoid free weights and use weight machines instead. You don’t need a spotter and training machines put less stress on the spine
- Instead of adding weight, which can increase the risk of spine injury, add repetitions to increase your strength
- Learn the proper techniques from a qualified trainer
- Avoid exercises that are especially likely to over-stress your spine and cause a spine injury. These are ones like dead-lifts, squats, snatches, and clean-and-jerks
Spine injury can happen even on the golf course. The swing requires a very force-filled rotation of the back, putting tremendous amounts of pressure on the muscles, joints, ligaments, and discs of the spine.
To reduce your risk of spine injury while golfing:
- Ask your trainer or a physical therapist about how to use the right posture and technique to prevent spine injury
- Always warm up your upper legs and your back muscles before beginning a round of golf.
- When you bend over to pick up your ball, don’t bend at the waist. Bend at your knees to prevent a spine injury.
- Don’t carry your heavy golf bag around the course. Walking is good exercise, but use a push cart for your bag.
Running can cause spine injury due to the repetitious causes jarring of the lower back, causing compression on the joints of the spine.
Tips to help reduce the risk of spine injury:
- Don’t run on uneven ground or on concrete. Look for a padded track to decrease your risk of spine injury due to running.
- Invest in a good cushioned high-quality pair of running shoes. At the first sign of wear, replace them.
- To avoid the risk of spine injury, always warm up first. Stretch your back and your leg muscles. Try to strengthen your core on non-running days so the muscles that support your spine are strong.