The Performance Athlete’s Guide to Back Pain Relief
Learn about the common causes of back pain and explore suggestions for what to do so you can get the relief you need to live a more normal life.
All kinds of bodily pain can cause issues for people, but back pain can be one of the most debilitating pains someone can experience. The human back is one of the largest areas of the body; it is the foundation from which people gain strength and the ability to do common motions that are needed in daily life as well as athletic performance.
The “back” people commonly refer to is comprised of many different bones, muscles, nerves, and ligaments that work together cohesively to provide support for the rest of the body. Dealing with back pain requires an understanding of where the pain is coming from as well as knowledge of how to treat the pain. This guide will help you learn about the most common causes of back pain and provide suggestions for what to do so you can get the relief you need to help you live a more normal life.
How to Identify Your Back Pain
Because the back is such a large area, pain in your back can come about in many ways. On a broad level, however, there are three main types of pain that can affect your back: muscular issues, skeletal or bone issues, and nerve issues. It is important to understand that these three kinds of back problems are different from one another, and, as a result, they require a different approach to treatment. Upon analyzing the most common problems in each of these three areas, you will gain better knowledge of how to relieve pain that stems from these conditions.
Three Main Types of Back Pain:
Muscular Back Conditions
Muscle aches and pains are very common for the person who uses their back muscles frequently, but everyone uses the muscles in their back to some extent. The muscles around your spine are used when you lean in a certain direction or bend over to pick something up. Some of the muscles in your back are even used when you breathe; they help allow the ribcage to expand and contract when you inhale and exhale. Athletes who perform throwing, grabbing, or twisting movements use their back muscles especially often.
One of the most common issues for back pain relating to the muscular system of the back is a muscle strain or sprain, such as when muscles get twisted, overextended, or slightly torn. Some of the major muscles in the back that are at risk for sprains or strains include the latissimus dorsi and the trapezius.
How can you tell if your back pain is a result of a muscular condition? If you have noticed that the pain began after a workout or athletic competition, or if your pain is centralized to one particular area and is sensitive to the touch, it is likely that you are dealing with muscle pain in your back. These are all signs that you have a muscular strain or sprain.
In milder cases, muscle strains can be treated using common home remedies: rest, massage therapy, and in some cases, over-the-counter medicines that are made to help relieve pain.
Skeletal Back Conditions
Most of the problems athletes experience involving skeletal issues can be tied to the spine or backbone.Without a properly-functioning spine, people would not be able to twist or bend their body. The spine also protects the bundle of nerves that eventually branch out to the rest of your body, which is known as the spinal cord. The spine is comprised of 33 vertebrae with small pads called intervertebral discs. Many skeletal back problems that cause pain are related to these vertebrae or the discs that separate them.
The most common kind of spine problems experienced by athletes results from abnormal spine curvatures, which can put pressure on the vertebrae and cause pain in different parts of the body as well as the back. Issues like scoliosis, kyphosis, and lordosis all commonly define spinal back problems that relate to an improperly-shaped spine.
Another very common skeletal ailment causing back pain for athletes is a fracture or small crack in the vertebrae. A spinal fracture is a serious injury that should be checked out by a sports doctor or physician, especially if the fracture is severe enough to have an impact on nerves of the spinal cord.
If you are dealing with back pain related to the spine, the most common symptom is a severe, sharp type of pain in a relatively localized area. You will most likely experience more pain when you try to move or engage in activities that involve the spine, such as bending over or twisting to one side. If some of your nerves have been damaged, you may also experience numbness or tingling feeling.
Because skeletal conditions involving the back are serious, treating these problems is best completed under the direction of a medical expert. In most situations, a big component of treating spine issues is stabilizing the affected area. This stability is what allows bone structures to heal sufficiently. Depending on the extent of your injury, some physical therapy may be required. In cases of serious spinal injury, surgery might be needed.
Nerve Back Conditions
Like skeletal issues, problems relating to nerves in the back are mostly centered in the spinal cord. The University of Washington says that the spinal cord is the main pathway used by nerves that send information from other parts of the nervous system to the brain. Nerves are what let the brain know that the body is experiencing pain and other sensations.
One common nerve issue with the human back that can cause pain is what is known as a slipped or protruded disc. This is a situation that occurs when the spinal discs located between the vertebrae become misaligned and end up affecting a nerve of the spinal cord. Because of how large and far-reaching the human nervous system is, pain in the nerves can extend to several other parts of the body.
For example, sciatica is a condition where the sciatic nerve becomes irritated. According to Spine-Health, the sciatic nerve is the biggest nerve in the body. It starts out around the lower spine area but eventually branches out all the way down to the feet. If you have been experiencing pain, numbness, or tingling in your buttocks or legs and it does not seem to be tied to one particular part of your back, it is very possible that you are dealing with sciatica or another nerve issue.
Nerve damage may be the most difficult type of back pain to treat. In some instances, it is impossible to fully treat back pain that results because of nerve damage, especially if the damage is quite severe. Fortunately, there are some treatment techniques available for those suffering from nerve pain in their back.
WebMD reports that one of the most important things to think about with nerve pain and nerve damage is the underlying cause of these problems. For example, one of the most common reasons that you may experience pain as a result of nerve issues is diabetes. Instead of directly addressing the nerve issue, diabetes sufferers would be wise to address the core issues of diabetes, which relate to blood sugar levels.
There are also certain prescription drugs that can cause nerve issues as a side effect. Look into any of the drugs that you are taking to see if they have side effects that may cause nerve problems. The cessation of these drugs may help you reduce or eliminate back pain as a result of nerve problems. Proponents of alternative medicine also use treatments like acupuncture and meditation. As is the case with any serious back issue, it is extremely important that you consult with a physician or back doctor so that you can get an exact diagnosis of the problem and learn about some of the potential ways to treat it.
The Development of Back Pain Treatments
As technology has advanced, more and more healthcare institutions and physicians are turning to sophisticated treatments to help relieve the back pain their patients are dealing with. This is especially important when you consider that many of the most common drugs prescribed for pain can have serious side effects. For example, the common painkiller oxycodone is included on the Drug Enforcement Administration’s list of Schedule II controlled substances, which includes substances that have a high potential for abuse and may cause severe physical or psychological dependence.
What alternatives are available for treating back pain? Radiofrequency is one modern type of treatment; it sends an electrical current produced by a radio wave through small areas of nerve tissue. A similar kind of device that can be used for spinal cord issues is known as a spinal cord stimulator. A small device is usually placed under the skin of the back, where it can easily emit electrical currents throughout the nerves in the spinal column.
These modern treatments are great for nerve issues, but what if you are dealing with muscle pain in your back? One of the best options available to you is a muscle stimulator device like the Marc Pro. With a similar function as radiofrequency treatments or a spine stimulator device, the Marc Pro uses gentle waves of electricity to cause mild muscle contractions that do not put any strain on the back. These contractions help promote the muscle recovery process by bringing fresh blood and nutrients into the area and activating the lymphatic system to flush out all the waste. The Marc Pro Plus also features an additional mode of operation that is extremely effective at immediately shutting down pain and providing up to hours of relief. Marc Pro devices have been used by professional athletes in sports like basketball, football, hockey, and baseball. Even those who compete in other activities that are taxing on the body, such as dancing and weight lifting, will find the Marc Pro Plus to be very valuable for helping to ease pain in the back.
Back Pain: A Serious Issue That Requires Serious Treatment
Whatever type of back pain you might be dealing with, it is important you come up with a plan to address the pain as soon as possible. An unhealthy back can cause problems for sports and physical activities, but it can also interfere with ordinary tasks like cleaning, getting dressed, and sitting down. Be sure to explore all of the options available to you so that you can get the type of treatment your back needs to feel better and maximize your performance, whether you are a pro athlete competing at a high level or simply want the flexibility and range of motion needed to have fun playing with your children at home.