A Common Injury in Amateur and Professional Athletes

Back pain is one of the most common injuries affecting both professional athletes and much of the general population. However, due to the highly physical nature of their profession, athletes have a much higher likelihood of aggravating prior back injuries and ending up with chronic conditions that require more serious forms of back pain treatment. In addition, athletes in certain professional sports (and in certain positions in those sports) have a greater likelihood of  back injuries requiring back pain treatment.

Back Injuries are Often Caused by Repetitive, Twisting Movements or Lifting

Back pain treatment is often required for athletes participating in sports that involve a lot of twisting movements, such as golf, tennis, and hockey. Sports involving heavy lifting, either in competition or training, also generate a number of back injuries. Fortunately, most of these injuries are relatively minor muscle strains and sprains that respond well to the most basic, non-invasive forms of back pain treatment. These can include icing down the affected area, stretching and/or massage, whirlpool tub therapy, and medications such as anti-inflammatory drugs and muscle relaxants. Pain medication may also be prescribed as part of the overall back pain treatment regimen for these injuries. Returning too early after treatment and potential addiction to pain medication are the most serious negative consequences of this type of injury and back pain treatment.

Degenerative Disc Disease

After numerous back injuries over time, some professional athletes can develop chronic back problems such as degenerative disc disease, caused by wear and tear on the discs between the vertebrae. The disks between the vertebrae may become inflamed, bulge out, or slip from their appropriate place in the spine – all of which can cause intense, debilitating pain and severe restriction of movement. The back pain treatment for these more serious conditions often starts out with the treatments that work for sprains and strains but often ends up with cortisone injections in the affected area and, eventually, surgery. Surgery can involve removing and replacing disks or even fusing vertebrae and installing metal plates or screws. Although the pain from these conditions can be intense, overuse of pain medication can actually make the problem worse by enabling the athlete to do more and lasting damage. Long term pain medication use as part of back pain treatment can also dramatically increase the chances of addiction.

Spondylolisthesis and Sports

Professional athletes, particularly those in contact sports and those who regularly hyperextend their backs (e.g., divers and gymnasts), can also suffer from stress fractures of their vertebrae or a condition called spondylolisthesis, where one vertebrae slips over another. Athletes with these conditions often require a back brace, long term physical therapy, and potentially surgery as a part of their back pain treatment. A sacral stress fracture (or fracture of the large triangular bone that connects the spine to the pelvis) can also occur to athletes in certain sports that are either high-impact or require a significant amount of running. The back pain treatment for this injury is primarily, rest, rehabilitation, and pain medication. Surgery that inserts a pin into the bone may also be a part of the back pain treatment for this condition.

The Danger of Painkiller Addiction from Back Injury Treatment

Due to the long-lasting, and often recurring, nature of many back injuries, the risks of addiction to pain medication by professional athletes who suffer from these conditions is significant. The muscle relaxants prescribed for some of these back injuries can also be addictive over the long term. All athletes recovering from back injuries should be aware of this possibility and monitor their drug usage accordingly, even though it has been prescribed by a physician. Many athletes have fallen victim to back injury painkiller addiction. If you see the warning signs of dependence, your physician can propose alternate forms of treatment and help you slowly wean yourself off from the medication involved.