Many athletes experience low back pain that results from blunt force trauma, soreness from overexertion, and strains that stem from improper conditioning. Most discomfort in the lumbar spine is resolved within a few days to a few weeks and can be treated with conservative measures.
The first line of defense in treating acute back discomfort is to put ice packs on the area for 10 minutes at a time approximately every hour for the first day. After 24 hours, ice and heat may be used intermittently. Moist heat applications should remain on the affected region for about 20 minutes. Commercially made pads that are left on for extended periods may also be effective.
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications offer good relief for milder strains and sprains, and muscle relaxants are useful for more painful conditions. If more serious injuries to the spine have occurred, narcotic pain medications and oral steroid preparations may be prescribed by a board-certified physician.
It is important to rest the lower back muscles and not get involved in any strenuous activity until the region heals. Bed rest on a supportive mattress should not extend past two days because the muscles of the trunk can be further weakened with excessive inactivity.
Athletes who have sustained more serious injuries such as spondylolisthesis (slipped vertebrae) or herniated discs can benefit from specially designed braces that support the spinal column. Braces are generally worn for approximately three months and activity is gradually increased on an individual basis.
Professionally supervised physical therapy sessions help injured patients regain strength around the affected area that, in turn, provide a barrier against further injury. The therapist can also make an assessment of the athlete’s training program and adjust his or her routine to ensure that appropriate conditioning is being performed.
When all conservative methods have been exhausted and the athlete is still experiencing pain or discomfort, it may be time to schedule an appointment with a professional spine surgeon in Los Angeles. To learn more or to request an in-person consultation, call The Spine Institute Center for Spinal Restoration at (310) 828-7757.