5 Warning Signs That Your Sports-Related Back Pain Requires A Doctor's Evaluation

If you have persistent back pain long after you’re done playing tennis or your football game has ended, it’s time to schedule

Whether you engage in sports on a professional level or enjoy participating in a pick-up game on the weekend, it’s important to recognize signs of an injury. Muscle soreness, especially in your back, is common after high-impact activities. However, if your back pain is more than just muscle fatigue and not going away, don’t delay an evaluation at the Institute for Comprehensive Spine Care

Gbolahan Okubadejo, MD, FAAOS, offers some guidance for determining when pain in your back after sports play may be more serious than you think. He offers five of the most common warning signs that pain from a sports-related injury needs his expert assessment.

The most common sports-related back injuries

Nearly any type of sports activity can lead to a back injury. The two most common types of sports-related injuries include cervical injuries and lumbar injuries.

Your cervical spine is another name for your neck. In many cases, cervical injuries and neck pain occur due to direct contact sports, like football, or from falls on the field.

Your lumbar spine, or lower back, is prone to acute injuries, like sprains or strains, but you can also suffer pain due to chronic inflammation that puts pressure on nearby nerves.

Any part of your spine is susceptible to fractures, either from direct contact trauma or from repetitive movements that gradually break down the structures in your spine. This breakdown is also common due to the natural aging process, which can lead to stress fractures in the bones of the spine.

Warning signs to watch out for with sports-related back pain

Dr. Oubadejo stresses that any concerns you have about pain following sports activity should be addressed as quickly as possible.

With many conditions, the earlier you seek treatment, the more successful your treatment will be. He recommends scheduling a consultation if you have immediate pain or are unable to walk after a sports-related injury. An appointment is also necessary if you experience any of these warning signs:

1. Progressive worsening of back pain

Initially, an injured back may feel sore. You can take over-the-counter pain relievers and anti-inflammatories and get some rest to relieve muscle soreness. You may also wish to ice the area to further reduce inflammation.

However, if your pain continues to worsen in the hours after soreness started, seek an evaluation as soon as possible to prevent additional injury to your back.

2. Persistent pain that lasts longer than eight weeks

While it can take a day or two for initial muscle soreness to feel better after high impact activity, any pain that persists longer than 6-8 weeks should be evaluated.

Chronic back pain may be an indication that you have an underlying injury in your back that’s pressing on a nerve, like a herniated disc.

You may also have an unrecognized degenerative condition that’s becoming more advanced, such as degenerative disc disease or sciatica.

3. Pain that radiates into the limbs

Radiating pain into your arms or legs is another indication you have nerve compression from a herniated disc, degenerative disc disease, or a fracture.

Often, radiating pain can feel like an electrical shock or a jolting pain with certain back movements. This type of pain is common with sciatica and may also result in weakness in the affected limbs that makes it difficult to go about your normal routine.

4. Loss of proper balance

If your back pain is limiting your mobility and making it difficult for you to walk or maintain your balance, don’t delay an evaluation.

Loss of balance can be an indication that something is wrong with your spine or the surrounding nerves. Without proper treatment, you’re at additional risk for injuries from falls due to poor balance.

5. Changes in your bowel or bladder habits

Bowel or bladder changes can be a big red flag that you have a serious spine condition, like spinal stenosis.

If you’re experiencing unexpected urine leaks or loss of bowel control, it may be due to a spinal cord injury causing a disruption in signals between your spinal nerves and your bladder and bowel. To prevent permanent damage, seek an evaluation of your spine without delay.

You can call the Institute for Comprehensive Spine Care today or request an appointment for sports-related back injuries with Dr. Bo online now. 

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