Managing Chronic Back Pain in Athletes


Having a strong and healthy back is crucial for achieving optimal athletic performance. Your back muscles allow you to move and operate at your best during training and competition. But chronic back pain in athletes can completely derail your athletic pursuits and leave you sidelined and in constant discomfort.

What Is Chronic Back Pain?

Chronic pain is pain that lasts for more than three months and affects millions of people, including many athletes. This type of long-term discomfort can be caused by overuse, injury, or underlying medical conditions.

Risk Factors for Chronic Back Pain in Athletes

Athletes are at a higher risk for chronic back pain because of the repetitive and strenuous movements involved in their sport. High-impact activities like running, jumping, and contact sports can cause back injuries. Poor posture, muscle imbalances, and weak core muscles can also contribute to chronic back pain.

Symptoms of Chronic Back Pain in Athletes

Chronic back pain can range from a dull ache to a sharp, stabbing pain felt anywhere from the neck to the lower back. Other symptoms may include stiffness, weakness, or tingling in the legs and difficulty sitting or standing for extended periods.

Diagnosis and Medical Treatments for Chronic Back Pain

If you’re an athlete experiencing chronic back pain, you should see a doctor as soon as possible. Your doctor may conduct a physical examination, ask about your medical history and symptoms, and order imaging tests, such as X-rays, an MRI, or a CT scan, to determine the cause of your pain.

By working with a neurologist or physiatrist, you can develop a treatment plan that addresses the root cause of your chronic back pain.

Here are six of the top medical treatments for chronic back pain in athletes.

1. Physical therapy

Physical therapy offers a non-invasive treatment option that can provide significant relief. Your physical therapist will work with you to design a personalized plan that focuses on improving strength, flexibility, and posture. This multifaceted approach can help to reduce discomfort, prevent further injuries, and enhance your physical function.

2. Exercise

Improving core strength and flexibility are two crucial components in managing back pain. By strengthening the muscles in the back, these low-impact exercises can relieve discomfort while promoting overall health. Exercises like the McGill Big 3 and McKenzie exercises are examples.

3. Massage therapy

Massage therapy can reduce muscle tension and discomfort, improve circulation, and promote healing. A massage therapist can help to release tight muscles, increase blood flow, and aid the body’s natural healing processes.

This approach to pain relief can offer both short-term and long-term benefits, making it an effective strategy for addressing a wide range of back-related concerns.

4. Medications

Medications are often used to treat back pain because they relieve discomfort and allow people to continue their day-to-day activities. Over-the-counter pain relievers, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen, can effectively manage mild to moderate pain and reduce inflammation.

Your doctor may also recommend stronger prescription medications, such as muscle relaxants, to help manage more severe symptoms. It is essential to follow your doctor’s instructions carefully when taking these medications, as they can have potentially serious side effects if not used properly.

5. Interventional pain procedures

Pain-blocking techniques are an advanced treatment option to provide targeted relief for chronic or severe back pain. These procedures may include epidural injections, which deliver corticosteroids or other medications to the affected area to reduce inflammation and relieve pain.

In some cases, these pain-blocking techniques may be combined with other treatments, such as physical therapy or medication, to provide a comprehensive approach to pain management.

6. Surgery

Surgery may be necessary to relieve severe cases of chronic back pain. The goal of surgery is typically to alleviate pain and restore proper function and mobility to the affected area.

Back surgery can involve a range of procedures, from minimally invasive techniques to major surgical interventions, depending on the severity and underlying cause of the pain.

Take Control of Your Pain Today

Don’t let chronic back pain prevent you from achieving your athletic goals. Seek medical attention to develop a personalized treatment plan that addresses the root cause of your pain.

With the right combination of medical treatments, you can manage your chronic back pain, get back to your sport, and enjoy a healthy and active lifestyle.

Schedule an appointment today!

Axion Newsletter